In Food + Drink

Nigella Lawson On What Keeps Pulling Her Back To Australia

A celebrated cook, food writer and owner of a multi-million-dollar cookware line, Nigella Lawson’s rise to fame came from her humble, everyday approach to cooking. Connections and joy at the heart of her food,  rather than the grandeur of technical cooking, and have gone a long way into endearing her to global audience.

Be it her eloquence, the fact that she has no formal training or her encouragingly real use of frozen vegetables and adjective-laden style, Nigella has found her way into the hearts of home cooks all around the world.

Empowering rather than intimidating, she believes in ‘the daily rhythms of everyday cooking’, which in turn blossoms into confidence in the kitchen.

“I think what holds people back, and can give them a tremendous amount of stress, is the belief that cooking is some sort of performance, and that they are supposed to be cooking like restaurant chefs,” she says.

“They feel that they must impress, when really cooking is about making connections, sharing joy and giving and getting pleasure. The fear of being judged almost guarantees you won’t enjoy cooking. It is really impossible to find this pleasure in the kitchen, if the only time you cook is when you have people over.”

According to Nigella, learning to cook and building the confidence to share it with others starts from simply cooking for yourself; because ‘when you cook for yourself, you don’t have that terrible pressure for everything to be perfect, and because it doesn’t matter really if things go wrong, somehow it’s less likely that anything will go wrong.’

A well-known presence on Masterchef Australia since the 2011 series and a reappearing guest at Margaret River’s Gourmet Escape, Nigella has become well entwined with Australia and its culinary scene. As someone who built her empire off hearty home cooking, she is particularly fond of Australia’s honesty when it comes to food.

“The Australian culinary scene is refreshingly creative without being tricksy, and invites everyone to make the most of ingredients from all over, with a real sense of joy,” she says.

“I think Australian cooking has had a huge influence on the world, partly through the enormous worldwide popularity of Masterchef Australia, and partly because anyone interested in food – whether as a food writer or editor – knows to keep an eye trained on what comes out of Australia.”

Returning to Margaret River for the 2018 Margaret River Gourmet Escape on the 16th to 18th of November (her second visit to the region in just 2 years), Nigella just can’t get enough of what the prized Margaret River wine region has to offer.

“It’s hard to resist that extraordinary combination of outstanding natural beauty, wonderful food and produce and excellent wine!”, she says.

“I’d happily travel the 9,000 miles from London for a glass of anything from Cullen Winery.”

“I think what really draws me to the region food-wise, though, is the respectfulness of the approach, the way that ingredients are treated, and a real sense that food – with its rich legacy of history and geography – is to be celebrated.”

Headlining this year’s festival, Nigella joins the likes of international father and son duo Rick and Jack Stein, Garum’s Guy Grossi and Bistro Guillaume’s Guillaume Brahimi. Nigella is more than enthusiastic about once again being a part of one of Australia’s most unique and celebrated food and wine festivals.

“I’m excited about being part of that very special community of people who love food, and to be able to celebrate that in such a glorious landscape. I love the Margaret River Gourmet Escape crowd: it’s like hanging out with warm, like-minded people who create such an upbeat and joyous atmosphere,” she says.

“What makes Gourmet Escape particularly special is how laid-back it is. It’s got a beautiful beachy vibe, and although there are more formal events, the crucial character of Margaret River Gourmet Escape at all times is not at all formal, but relaxed, enthusiastic, unpretentious and just so gorgeously welcoming.”

After selling out her first tea party event at Howard Park, Gourmet Escape have just announced the release of tickets to a second event hosted by Nigella. ‘The Supper with Nigella’ at Xanadu Wines takes place from 8.30pm – 11.00pm on Saturday 17th November, and features a menu of Nigella’s favourite late night eats, a Q&A session with Kate Langbroek and a pre-signed copy of Nigella’s latest cookbook, At My Table.

Tickets for the evening are $250 and are now available at the Gourmet Escape website.

Published 14 September, 2018