Cookery guru Prue Leith prepares for inaugural Haslemere Literary Luncheon

Prue Leith (Photo by Colin Thomas)

Prue Leith (Photo by Colin Thomas) - Credit: Archant

Celebrated cookery guru, entrepreneur, BBC TV’s Great British Menu judge and latterly prolific novelist, Prue Leith talks exclusively to Surrey Life about food, love and the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, prior to her special guest appearance at the inaugural Haslemere Literary Luncheon next week

We are looking forward to welcoming you to Surrey for the launch of the Haslemere Literary Luncheon – do you know Surrey well? My brother lived in Dorking so I used to visit him, but I also know the journey to Gatwick far too well!

You are going to be speaking about your rich and varied career as a restaurateur, businesswoman and latterly as a popular novelist – which of these jobs has been the most rewarding? And the most exhausting…?! Catering is the most exhausting. Often up all night prepping for a wedding or a banquet. Also stressful (Champagne has not arrived, bride’s Mum in meltdown etc…) But very rewarding when it all goes swimmingly.But I like writing best. (I’m a control freak and with a novel everyone does what you want and you are responsible for everything.)

Your latest novel obviously uses some culinary links in its content and title – is cooking never far from your mind? No, always in my mind. I can’t get away from food, even in fiction. Too greedy, I guess.

Do you find it easy to think up new plots for your novels? Are you continually looking for new ideas…? I start with a theme which interests me and then surround it with characters and plot that illustrate the point . Leaving Patrick was a question of “Can women have it all? Career, happy marriage? Children?” Answer, not without pain. Sisters was about sibling rivalry. The Garden was about taste. What is vulgar and why? Choral Society was about older women and female friendship. A Serving of Scandal was about power corrupting and my current novel, Food of Love, has a background of the change in attitudes to food and cooking since the war until now. But they are all love stories.

How do you go about the process of writing? Which authors are your biggest influences? I like the great Victorians, Thackeray, Trollope, and so on. But also many new writers, such as Janet Ellis, Jo Jo Moyes, Afsaneh Knight.

We have read that Stephen Fry’s production company has reserved the rights to your latest novel – would you enjoy it being turned into a TV programme or would you be nervous about it? I’D LOVE IT! I keep telling myself it’s a long shot, but they are very keen and I trust them. Maybe naively, but it’s worth the risk, surely.

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What is your proudest achievement? I think getting the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square used for exhibition space for contemporary sculpture. It started as a whim, took five years and we had to get through thirteen committees, but there it is with a new work of art every year.

We understand you are currently filming the latest series of BBC’s Great British Menu – do you enjoy this judging process? Any amusing tales of culinary disasters? Yes, what’s not to like? I just sit there feeding my face and saying what I like. Yes, some funny stories…(more of this at the Luncheon, we hope…Ed)

Do you visit your homeland of South Africa very often? Yes, at least once a year. I have the Prue Leith Chefs Academy in Pretoria, a flat in Cape Town and family all over the place!

Finally, are you working now on the next of your trilogy series of novels? Yes, I’m currently marketing Book One, editing Book Two and writing Book Three. Never again! From now on, I’ll write short stories I think…


To purchase tickets for Haslemere Travel’s special Haslemere Literary Luncheon with Prue Leith on Monday March 21 at The Georgian Hotel, Haslemere, in support of the Haslemere Educational Museum, go to or

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