The image of glamorous Englishwoman Nigella Lawson, whose immaculately styled cooking shows have always looked tailor-made for the BBC at its most upscale, could hardly be further from that of tough-talking, macho Scot, Gordon Ramsay, the best-known British culinary celeb in the U.S.
But American audiences will soon get to sample Lawson, whose slate of books includes the popular “How to Become a Domestic Goddess,” and whose demeanor is all sideways smiles, sexual innuendo and an overt coquettishness that seems designed to encourage male viewers to consider learning how to cook. Lawson will appear as one of four mentors — alongside celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain, Brian Malarkey and Ludo Lefebvre — in ABC’s cooking challenge skein, “The Taste,” due to bow in the first quarter of 2013.
“I was hesitant, (and) slightly worried about whether I could do it or not,” Lawson admits. “But in the end, my interest in the show outweighed my fear of doing it.”
This fusion of reality-style talent show and food is a far cry from Lawson’s usual BBC work, of which the latest example is “Nigellissima,” a sumptuously filmed paean to Italian cooking, in which Lawson shows auds how to work wonders with such prosaic Italian dishes as pasta. The glossy skein is accompanied by an even glossier book, aimed at the Christmas market.
In fact Lawson, once a columnist and book reviewer for Blighty’s broadsheet press, considers herself a writer first and foremost. “Books come first,” she says.
Lawson’s attempt to launch a career as a British chatshow anchor ended in disaster for U.K. commercial web ITV seven years ago. But she’s learned from the experience, and has gone on to host such cooking shows as “Nigella Feasts” and “Nigella Express,” which aired on the Food Network in the U.S. “You can never tell who is going to work on TV until you put someone on TV,” she says. “Age and looks don’t make a huge difference. As long as people are who they are, it works.”
Lawson is a producer of both “Nigellissima” and “The Taste.” “Nigellissima,” distributed by BBC Worldwide, remains unsold in the U.S. But with cooking shows like “The Great British Bake Off,” starring Paul Hollywood in the U.K., now being adapted by CBS in the U.S. and for M6 in France, there may be more room for a slice of British pastry on U.S. TV menus.
“I’d love to be a judge on the ‘Great American Bake Off,’ ” she says. “If the Americans love ‘Downton Abbey,’ won’t they just love ‘The Great British Bake Off?’ ”