Loveable TV chef Rosemary Shrager loves a murder mystery. So much so, she decided to turn her hand to crime writing and has based her latest book in Cornwall

What do you get when the worlds of cooking, crime and a fictitious Cornwall community collide? A pretty spectacular murder mystery from none other than celebrity chef, Rosemary Shrager.

While most well known for her cooking credentials and appearing on television shows, such as Ladette to Lady, Best Leftovers Ever and Cooking with the Stars, over the past three years, Rosemary has joined the likes of Richard Osman and Reverend Richard Coles to write crime fiction.

With eight cookbooks under her belt Rosemary is no stranger to the world of publishing but it was during Covid that her foray into a genre dubbed by many as ‘cosy crime’ – a term Rosemary hates – began.

‘I just love a murder mystery, I love Agatha Christie, and Death in Paradise is one of my favourite TV programmes. But I hate the word cosy because it’s still a crime. It’s still a murder, just not a dark murder,’ Rosemary explains. ‘It was my literary agent’s idea I give it a go. So, I wrote a little synopsis and the next thing I knew I had a three-book deal. It wasn't meant to be like that but somehow it happened.’

In the books, chef Prudence Bulstrode – a character unashamedly based on Rosemary herself - is forced to turn sleuth when murders take place at the cookery schools she is touring to tutor at. Suki, Rosemary’s real-life granddaughter, also makes an appearance, as well as others close to the 73-year-old star.

‘Basically, I took all the people I knew, then I took some of the people that I've come across in my life and built the story around that. Prudence has my sense of adventure and I’ve always been a bit nosy and a bit bossy, which she is. Oh, and I gave myself a campervan, because I’ve always wanted one,’ Rosemary laughs.

When I speak with Rosemary, she is suffering with a terrible cough. She should be resting her voice, I tell her, but she has hot water and lemon and says she is beyond ‘delighted’ to speak with me because, despite now living in East Sussex, Cornwall holds a special place in her heart.

‘I lived in Cornwall and many of my family still live in Cornwall – my sister, and my mother until she died, lived in Helston – so I feel very close to it,’ she says. ‘When we were children, we had a country house in Cornwall, so we used to live there in the holidays and then we lived in London during term time. I have wonderful holiday memories of being on the beaches, all around Cornwall’s coastline, and having picnics. And I loved going to the theatre too – my goodness I saw so many plays at The Minack at Porthcurno.’

In the nineties, Rosemary returned to Cornwall to live with her husband, Michael, and their two children, Kate and Tom. Kate attended school in Penzance and it is this that influenced the setting for her latest book Two Many Cooks, which hits bookshops this month.

Great British Life: Despite now living in East Sussex, Cornwall holds a special place in Rosemary's heartDespite now living in East Sussex, Cornwall holds a special place in Rosemary's heart

This third book in the Prudence Bulstrode series (the first, Last Supper, published in 2022 and Proof is in the Pudding followed last year) sees cook-turned-sleuth, Prudence, return to her childhood boarding school, St Marianne's School for Girls in Penzance, to lead an Easter holidays course in the fundamentals of cookery. But no sooner does she arrive, a gruesome discovery is made.

While Rosemary admits she has a lot of fond memories of the west coast, they are tinged with sadness, she tells me. She and Michael moved from London to Cornwall because his business had failed. He set up a new property venture, and Rosemary, having adored cooking all her life and worked in catering in London, joined French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli at his restaurant Nansidwell House Hotel in Cornwall. But then the recession hit.

‘We lost everything. It was a terrible time in my life, and I had a bit of a nervous breakdown,’ Rosemary says of the period, which ended in her splitting up with Michael and travelling back to London with nothing but a small suitcase to her name. ‘But you know what? I got through it, I pushed myself forward for years and years and that’s what got me out of it.’

It was Rosemary’s grit, determination and ‘sheer balls’ that started her on the journey to television stardom, not that she knew it at the time. She wrote a letter to French chef Pierre Koffmann, at his famous Tante Claire restaurant in Chelsea, and asked if he would employ her. She had no formal training and Koffmann had never employed a woman before, but he took her on. However, it was when she was hired by cider tycoon Jonathan Bulmer, at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate on the Isle of Harris in Scotland, that television producers came knocking and she was given her own show, Castle Cook, on Channel 5. More prime-time shows like Ladette to Lady, which saw Rosemary try to clean up badly behaved women at an old-fashioned finishing school, followed and she has been on our screens ever since including shows like I’m a Celebrity, in 2012, and the first series of The Real Marigold Hotel in 2016.

‘I love to travel and for The Real Marigold Hotel, I went to seven countries including India, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam. It was an unbelievable experience,’ she says.

However, she reveals that her favourite programme to work on was filmed much closer to home and saw her skirt her beloved Cornish coast with actor and TV presenter Bradley Walsh for All at Sea.

‘I love ‘Bradders’, as I like to call him. We travelled from Cornwall to Kent by boat – the first leg was on a fishing boat off the coast of Penzance. We had so much fun. I've never laughed so much in all my life,’ Rosemary admits, continuing to talk so fondly of Bradley that I wonder if he might make an appearance as a character in one of her books.

Great British Life: Rosemary's latest book is set in PenzanceRosemary's latest book is set in Penzance

At the time of our interview, a new book deal is yet to be made, but Rosemary says she would love to write more. I ask if writing has superseded her love of cooking.

‘Oh no, cooking will always be my very first love,’ she’s quick to respond. ‘I can't be away from cooking, ever. Cooking is in my blood. It’s in my genes and I just cannot imagine life without it.’

Two Many Cooks by Rosemary Shrager, is published by Constable on February 15, RRP £22.

My Favourite Cornwall

‘I love Helford Passage. It’s so picturesque. I have had many fun moments on the Helford.’

‘My favourite pub is Harbour House in Flushing for the view. It’s right on the water’s edge and is wonderful on a sunny day. That or the Ferry Boat Inn, which has beautiful views across Helford Passage.’

‘I don’t tend to go to coffee shops all that often but I love a cream tea and Trelissick House has a lovely tea room which serves Cornish cream tea – and of course that means jam first and then the cream.’

‘The absolute best place to have a Cornish pasty is Ann's Pasties at Lizard.’