Nigella Lawson is proof that you can have it all, even if you are a just a home cook.
The British TV star, who herself is a home cook, can add ABC's culinary competition show The Taste, which airs Tuesdays at 8/7c, to her string of hit cooking shows. On the new series, she and three other chefs — Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey — select contestants to be on their team based on a one-bite, blind taste test. Therefore, professional chefs and home cooks alike have an equal chance to compete, but it's not an easy thing to impress four widely different palates and deal with their mentoring styles.
"I went about [mentoring my cooks] with the idea that you can't have good food coming out of an unhappy kitchen," Lawson told critics at ABC's winter previews. "Tony is kind of edgy, but also I feel is beginning to acquire a rather attractive elder statesman status. He kind of like ruled everything and ... opened a lot of beers.
"Ludo was just like comedy Frenchman and walked off set a lot and shouted," she continued. "Malarkey was a bit mean. Not 'mean' mean, but he would say, 'I wouldn't have that in my kitchen. I wouldn't have that in my restaurant.'"
It's clear that Lawson is the gentlest of the four Taste judges. Check out five more reasons to adore her:
1. She lets her belly hang out: The gorgeous Brit wanted the promotional posters for The Taste to reflect the real Nigella. "I told them, 'Do not airbrush my tummy out because I eat and I've got a tummy,'" Lawson confided. "The whole of TV is dominated by very thin women, and also thin women many years younger than me. I just said, 'You know, this is what I look like.' And then I thought afterwards, 'Am I mad?' I exercise a lot, but I can never diet."
2. She really is an untrained cook who operates like we do: "Every [recipe was] tested at least three times in real time," she said about her upcoming 10th cookbook, Nigellissima, which will be on shelves Feb. 12. "I cook meals. I don't do it in a laboratory at home. I have a separate tester away from that ... Also, I'm a home cook, so I leave things in the fridge much longer than I'm allowed to say. So I need a food tech to say, 'You're not allowed to say that.' And sometimes I'll say in my books, 'I'm told you can only have it in the fridge for two days, but I often do four.'"
3. She gets tired of fancy food too: During the competition, Lawson and the judges had to plead with the chefs and cooks to remove one ingredient from their repertoire. "We said to everyone, 'Stop with the scallops. Too many!'" she said. "I think it's because one fits on the spoon quite well. People see it in the magazine. It's quite chef-y. ... And it's one of those things you can cook quite well in a short amount of time. So we did have to say, 'Stop now. It's not going to work out if we all do that.'"
4. She has a fantastic faux rivalry with Lefebvre: "He was very mean to me," she acknowledged. "But you know what? It's one of the things why I think the show has integrity. I've done a lot of TV and often people are so nice to you on camera and then off camera they're not. Whereas Ludo did the opposite. So Ludo was often really mean to me on-camera, but off-camera, he was so sweet. I'd often say, 'Oh Ludo, I don't know if I can do this.' And he'd say, 'Oh no, you were great. You were fine.' I like that. That is TV. And he would sometimes be really mean and come in with a conciliatory shot of tequila afterwards. But he'd say to people [in French accent], 'Why you listen to her? She is English! You want to learn to cook, you trust a French person!' I respect him a lot and I have got a brother. I'm used to being teased. I can look after myself. I love Ludo."
5. She carries her own food seasoning everywhere: "This is a very unfashionable thing to say, but I really believe good salt is incredibly important," she said. "I'm sure it looks like I'm ferrying drugs around, but I travel everywhere with a small tin of proper sea salt flakes because I can't get over how you'd go to a really nice restaurant and the chef has labored long and lovingly over your food, and then they give you bathroom scourer instead of salt. And so I'm fanatical about salt. I know that everyone says that it's bad for you, but I think we are born with a taste for salt. If you eat real food, then real salt is good. Not fake food."
Check out Lawson and Bourdain answering "Ask The Taste" questions below before catching The Taste on Tuesday at 8/7c on ABC: