« Desert Island Discs

Dame Prue Leith, writer and broadcaster

2021-12-19 | 🔗
Dame Prue Leith is a broadcaster, writer, former restaurateur and a judge on the television show the Great British Bake Off. Prue was born in Cape Town, South Africa, during the era of Apartheid. After leaving school she moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, but decided that her future lay in food, and took a Cordon Bleu cookery course in London. She set up her own catering business from her bedsit, where space was so tight that she washed lettuces in the bath. In 1969 she opened Leith’s, her own fine dining restaurant, in Notting Hill in west London. Leith’s was awarded a Michelin star in the 1980s. She went on to write columns and cookbooks and became a regular broadcaster about food, on shows including the Great British Menu. In 1975 she opened Leith’s School of Food and Wine which trains professional chefs and amateur cooks. Prue replaced Mary Berry as a judge on the Great British Bake Off in 2017. She has written eight novels and lives with her husband in Gloucestershire. DISC ONE: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds by The Beatles DISC TWO: Ugly Duckling by Danny Kaye DISC THREE: Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika by Ladysmith Black Mambazo DISC FOUR: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (I) composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and performed by Sir Neville Marriner (violin), Academy Of St Martin-in-the-Fields Orchestra and conducted by David Willcocks DISC FIVE: 16 Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford DISC SIX: Skylark by Aretha Franklin DISC SEVEN: Chopin, Nocturne No. 2, op 9 in E flat major, played by Elisabeth Leonskaja DISC EIGHT: Big Spender by Shirley MacLaine BOOK CHOICE: Ulysses by James Joyce LUXURY ITEM: Writing materials CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika by Ladysmith Black Mambazo Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bbc. Sounds music radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert, island and for rights reasons. The music is shorter than the original broadcast out. You enjoy listening. I My castaway this week is the chef restaurateur writer and broadcaster, dame prue leith
it already forged a formidable reputation and colony circles and was contemplating a quiet life when, in twenty seventeen everything changed, she was invited to become a judge on the great british bake off. She was seventy seven, an age when women don't get off at a slot on prime time television, less alone show which regularly
facts, many millions of viewers. She quickly one a new generation of funds with her vibrant. I wept pithy observations and unscreened chemistry with fellow judge pull hollywood. She fell in love with food. Is a young woman, not in her native south africa, but in paris. In the early sixties, she moved to london to study at the court on blow cookery school and set up a catering business from her beds. It it was a success despite the occasional disaster like the time she left us worries worth of live lobsters on the piccadilly line. She opened her first restaurant in nineteen, sixty nine, which you followed with a cookery school. Her broadcasting korea started with a two minute slot on the today programme here on radio, for setting up cooking tips to the nation by the early ninetys empire was turning over fifteen million pounds a year. She says thing about food is that you don't lose interest in it because twice a day you get hungry and you think
at food. Again, I don't think I'd feel the same about motorcars. Prue. Leith welcome to desert island discs. Well, thank you for having me pruitt was speaking at christmas, which is of course a greedy time of year, and you often say that being greedy has been the key to your success. What are you greedy for? I wonder, will you know the funny thing is. I think I am pretty greedy for just about anything and everything and that's rarely been the. It's the sort of motivation for me doing so many different things. All my life you just to try them. I just can't resist everybody says: would you like to do that? I think oh yeah, that when interesting I'd love to that and I'm greedy and I find it really difficult not to eat the whole cake bake off. I'm very glad to hear that it's satisfying to know he began a high
profile job in your late seventies. Pray. Do ever feel like you're demolishing a few stereotypes alongside all that cake. I've never thought of myself as a kind of role model old champion women doing stuff, but has never occurred to me that they wouldn't province. To me. How can you wear amazingly big necklaces, all bright, colors or funny glasses? I mean that's, ok with no twenty, but it's not ok with eighty one, and my thing is that I think bright colors make your cheerful in it. If you put on a yellow codes in on a rainy day, you feel better, and it distresses me that if you see people getting off a train in winter, every one of them in a black coat
amazing, if you see one redcoat, it'd, be terrific for vigil. You don't am I sending you off to the island today. I wonder a few before we start talking about your desert. Island discs have a desert island bake. Well, I think it would be a bread of some kind. Wouldn't it I mean you couldn't eat cake every day, assertive for katya. You know some sort of really squashy comforting, delicious bread, the that sounds rather lovely and the music to go with it. Let's get stuck into your first selection too, if you wouldn't mind prove what have you chosen well, this is perhaps a little bit obvious because you know my youth was the sixties.
Oh, it's lucy in the sky with diamonds which opposes the beatles. I still love it. I still absolutely love it wrong neighbour, lucy the sky with diamonds. The beatles truly the hospitality industry is, of course, facing very challenging times at the moment, pubs and restaurants are also struggling to hire skilled staff from the EU after brexit. Do you think that working in hospitality doesn't have the status it deserves, and that makes it harder to recruit new people? You know this is something
that I have been banging on about for all my life. Caterers also undervalued, top ships get paid well and top restaurateurs could earn a lot of money, but the pay by large is poor the hours, a lousy in other along the shore to misread, don't pay enough for food. We don't be enough raw food and we don't be a fool restaurants and what I am hoping is that now because it has been so much attention to it, we will start to pay people better, but I am sorry to say that for me, new pay more for your dinner. You voted for breaks it in the last referendum by wondered if you'd regretted that at any points over when I had at the difficult times in the past eighteen months, two years have certainly I haven't actually regretted it, because I still think long term. It is a good thing,
but I am. I voted because I thought that we ought to be making our own decisions and what I'm the only things I've been disappointed by and they are thus supporting is. Obviously I think we were not quick enough to realise just how difficult it would be to get stuff. I think we should let people end if we need them in the trade and then the other thing I'm I'm still anxious about is that I think we have very good food standards in this country, I've always thought that we shouldn't be allowed to make a deal that breaches our own rules pray. I know that your programme as it stands,
It's led t been the target of online trolling. Did that upset you yes very much, it's horrible being trolled is absolutely awful because you you're so powerless. I mean everybody says this, but it is true. You cannot come back and argue your case, but I was advised- and I think correctly to do nothing, don't give it oxygen. All you do. Is you reignite the people who hate you, and so I did nothing and it went away and it didn't last very long- and it didn't upset me for very long or an improved time for some more music disc number. Two. Now what have you got for us and why have you chosen it today? Well, it's a very funny one and it's called the ugly duckling and the reason I chose it was because one of my memories of vegas teenager being so embarrassed because my mother would put this. She was an actress
when this song came on, she would dance around the room being the ugly duckling and wiggling her tail and dot, and you know how embarrassing it is when your parents were that dancing mum dancing is worse. There once was an ugly happening with feathers. Having and brown and the other. In so many words get out, get out, get out out of, He went with a black and white and black enough maria I'd say it. Isn't it a nationwide wiggling outbreak has just happened. Arusha. I just absolutely love is the ugly duckling by Danny K, prillie fuel
on in cape town, south africa in nineteen forty, you grew up in johannesburg, the middle of three children and your father, Stuart workforce. The jury of icy I and your mother peck was an actress did having a famous mom may give the envy of all your friends, No, you know, funnily enough, I was really embarrassed about having a famous mother. I used to know I want to have a very cuddly plump mum who made cakes and came to the school fete and then one day the head teacher said to me: oh your mom's coming to talk to the school about shakespeare, and I thought, oh god, I'll die, and I hit the back of the pool and my mama came onto the stage and she said right. I've been to tell you some shakespeare stories and she told us briefly about the first one. She told us about the ray ban julius and then she took it one of the speeches and she was at the time four thousand two hundred and forty five
I mean she immediately became a fourteen year old girl in love. She just was transformed and I walked out of that school hall so proud of myself. I thought I was the bee's knees, because my mother is an actress and she is far too busy to make cakes and come to school. Fetes said I just hadn't appreciated her along the shoulder and how did you get on with your father? He was very
I mean, I think it's one of the things I tried to do a little bit with my children tos. You know your children if they have siblings what they love is to be with one of their parents or best their parents by themselves without their siblings. So my dad would sometimes take me out just for supper by myself with sounds so funny now, but there was a a restaurant called the chicken in the basket, and it was basically a grilled chicken that you pulled to bits with your fingers and add chips, and I love the fact that it was served in a basket. I think I was always in love with the trappings of restaurants. What you remember about grown up in south africa have described yours as a happy childhood, but also very privileged one. While it was, I mean we were. We were quite well off and I went to a private school and
the thing that made us most privileged of or as we will, white middle class and so in a party. It was part of life. I knew that my parents were very liberal and my mother used to campaign against departed. She belonged to a organization called the black sash, which was a women's organisation that, I remember her standing on the town hall steps and having eggs thrown at her because she was protesting about the fact that you couldn't have black actors in a play. Even othello had to be played by white man, and so I always thought that we were very liberal. But the truth is it wasn't until I got to europe that I realized how ingrained racism. Is I mean, for example, I would walk down the street. Young fourteen year old, saying with my girlfriends giggling away and
innumerable old black man would perhaps get off this pavement and walk in the gutter at these giggling schoolgirls pause, because the whole culture was blacks had to make way for whites. My nanny, who was black, was not allowed to sit in the bus with us in the front of the bus. had to sit at the back of the bus and I'd. I still have the sense of guilt. I think over south africans do it's time. You said piece of music prove. What have you chosen? Will you not? surprised to hear that I have chosen cosy, see clearly the africa which has now become the south african national anthem, It's sung by the lady smith, black man, bozo choir c c then no sir I was was it.
It see the news I do so lovely, isn't wonderful and cozy africa, lady smith, black mombasa prue leith. I absolutely love this quote from you, my family, didn't about food, money, sex or politics? God knows what they did talk about, because those are all the interesting things here note. Why was improved to a topic of conversation at home? While I think it was a generational thing, it was considered rather vulgar to talk about food in something you put in your body and to physical, all of it to physical, okay,
it's and I didn't so. I didn't cook at all. I, when I cook, I once made a cake at school as christmas cake, but I didn't put any glycerin into the royal icing, so it set like concrete. My father tried to cut it when he couldn't get in so he got held in my mother's ivory, handled carving knife really beautiful knife and used it like a chisel, held it above the cake and hit it with a hammer and it broke the knife and it still didn't get through the through the icing. So in the end returned the whole cake over and scooped the cake out of the bottom. So let's talk about how your own love affair with food started after a bit of shopping and changing when you were twenty, you persuaded your father to. Let you go to the sorbonne to study french and you were working as no parent
nowadays, Paris was the canary. I open a fool: you wasn't what food discoveries did you make them? I think what I discovered most of what is most important is the fact that food was important. You know the french talk about food, all the time everybody talks about food, and the other thing is that when I was au pair Madame took me and the two little children off before breakfast to get the bread. You know how the french gulf in get bread, early in the morning, and we went to one shop for the budgets, one shop for the question and another shop for the cake ghetto busk. And I said after a couple of mornings of this, I said why do we do that? All the shop? So all of those things she looks to me as if I completely mad said. Look because the question of the best in that shopping in it and it hadn't occurred to me that people took that
trouble over shop. It I'm in my mother, used to just order it all on the telephone. Food was just taken seriously and I often say it was like the scales falling from my eyes were: what am I doing? Vicki I could be an actress or an artist or academic or with what I need to be as a cook prove it's time for some music, your forth. police today. What is it and why are you taking it with you to the island? We never listened to music and I never went to concerts as a child. It's odd because my mother was such a cultured world and she sang rather well. But I can't sing a note and I knew nothing about music and when I got to paris for some reason, I can't now remember why I went to a concert and they played Mozart's, I'm a climate knock music, and that is my beginning of life. Interest in classical music
the, the new thoughts. Ironically,
and enact music performed by the academy of cinema and in the fields conducted vice and never marina, prove leaf in nineteen. Sixty two to london and went on a cordon blow cookery course then started a catering business from the bed sit way we're living. How did that go down with your landlady were? Fortunately, she had no sense of smell, so she could. She never came up to the forefront, which is where I was. I would have on the landing where the bathroom was. I would very often have a bee add wash lettuces in the bath and I'd have the and I will keep the lobsters there because they couldn't climb out in it and then, when I had done a tray of beautiful city for little sandwiches canopies for cocktail party line them all up on the top of my bed, and then I've got it all downstairs for flights and deliver it. In my little I hadda
little eyes, ceta, three wheeler bubble car or I would deliver stuff on the tube. That was how he came to leave the lobsters on the piccadilly line. I did notice that he fall asleep. Did you forget the rebel I just picked up? The other bar in the divers had a lot of bags, and I just left one basket behind must have got all the way to cockfosters with be a bit of a surprise: so. By this time, pre you'd fallen in love with the writer rain krueger. He was eighteen years older than you and a family friend and you'd known him since childhoods your mother, and his wife, none were very close. Now you had an affair with rain that lasted thirteen years how'd. You look back on that time, no well
If I was rarely happy because I was in love with rain, nobody knew about our affair, and so I was still great friends with all of his family and indeed his wife, who I adored, and although this was absolutely deceitful, I could no more have walked away from him. Then flown to I was completely in love with him, so you eventually got married after rain and nuns divorce. How did you find out about your relationship? I wanted a baby really badly and I did am pregnant, and so we then told Nan that we had fallen in love and that we could have a baby which must have been appalling for her, because of course she had no idea. She felt we were. You know I was her friend and said: was it was really
terrible for her, but she was a wonderful woman and rain- was determined that we would stay friends and he managed to do that. He managed to keep The family outside and none would come said with us in the country, and she was like a god parent, my children, but what we
Transcript generated on 2022-06-05.