It was the era before Nigella, but even so Delia Smith has revealed that BBC bosses thought she was not “sexy enough” for television in the 1980s.
Smith, 71, said she was considered “too educational” by BBC Two bosses.
After her first series Family Fare failed to attract enough viewers on BBC One, she was later given a show on BBC Two but it did not impress the channel’s controller.
“The next controller said, ‘I don’t think this is sexy enough. I don’t think it belongs on my channel. I think it should go in education’. Apparently I was not sexy enough. I suppose it was a blow, but you can’t be everything can you?” she told The Mirror.
But Smith said the knock-back was the “best thing that ever happened” and inspired her to go back to basics, making her shows more popular.
Speaking last night at a Bafta event where she was hailed as a “national treasure” and given a special award for her contribution to broadcasting, Smith said the best thing about her career was the response from her viewers.
“I think the most rewarding and satisfying thing is meeting the people who use the recipes, reading their letters- well, now their emails- but that’s always rewarding when you realise you are actually reaching people through this wonderful medium called television.”
She also spoke about her recently launched online cookery skills course, which she hopes will educate a new generation of cooks.
“At the moment we’ve got Delia Online cookery school and that’s my passion at the moment, to try and teach younger people who have not had any lessons and try and teach them the basics.”
But the much-loved TV cook admitted her online school will be her last venture into cooking programmes.
“There is no better way to teach. When I have done this I will stop, as it will be done for ever” she said.
Smith began her TV career in 1973 as presenter of Family Fare, following a brief spell as a swimwear model before becoming a cookery writer for The Mirror.
Her first cookery book How to Cheat at Cooking was published in 1971 and was later made into a three-part television series called Delia Smith's Cookery Course.
Her most recent series have included One is Fun, Delia's How to Cook, and Delia's Classic Christmas.