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Masterchef

EXCLUSIVE: Nigella Lawson says her very private children "don't want attention"

''I'm very protective of my children because they don't want attention, it's not their thing and they didn't choose this life''.

By Sue Smethurst
Nigella Lawson sashays across the room in a flowing summery print dress and kisses me on both cheeks, clasping my garden-roughened hands in her own perfectly manicured ones.
"Would you like tea?" she asks while beckoning me to sit.
It may be the first time I've met the queen of British home cookery, but it feels like we're old pals because Nigella has been a part of my – and millions of others' – lives forever.
More mere kitchen mortals than you could count have attempted her famed chocolate Malteser cake, or triumphantly mastered her roast chicken.
Over 10 million dog-eared copies of her iconic cookbooks sit on kitchen benches around the world.
And we regularly welcome her into our homes on the countless television shows she fronts.
The former journalist and book reviewer, who has built a $40 million empire on mastering the art of effortless charm, is now one of the most recognisable women in the world.
Surprisingly, the 59-year-old is more beautiful and disarmingly charming in real life than on screen.
Her porcelain skin is luminous and her thick arched eyebrows have been shaped with impossible precision.
The Nigella recipe is part Sophia Loren, part Jane Fonda's Barbarella, with a surprising sprinkling of self-deprecating humour.
The result is definitely more goddess than domestic.
"There's no difference between who I am publicly and privately, but I'm quite lazy," she says when I ask if there's a secret flaw in all of this bowl-licking lusciousness.
"I've always had a theory that lazy people work harder because you have to drive yourself to get things done."
The gorgeous cook is returning to MasterChef Australia as a guest judge. (Image: Corrie Bond. Styling by Mattie Cronan)
If that's true, Nigella Lawson is the hardest working "lazy" person in showbiz.
Her interview with The Australian Women's Weekly and subsequent photo shoots at Piccolina Gelateria and Alimentari in Melbourne's Collingwood are scheduled between back-to-back publicity commitments for her appearance on Network's Ten's MasterChef Australia and a sell-out An Evening with Nigella tour of Australia and New Zealand.
In her spare time she's working on a new book.
She's barely had a moment to catch her breath or shake off the jetlag since arriving in Australia just a few days before we meet.
Prior to that, she'd just finished a season of An Evening with Nigella on London's West End and a publicity tour to promote the 20th anniversary edition of How to Eat, the book that made her a household name.
It's an exhausting schedule but she insists her time in Australia brings a much-needed sense of quiet and stillness into her life, a chance to refresh despite a jam-packed diary.
"I love the big skies and the seas of Australia," she adds.
"I find it very beautiful, and the people are so relaxed and yet still sparky. The lack of reverence here is so engaging. I'm trying to stay a little bit longer each time I come because it's such a big place and there's so much to see."
She says Australia is like a second home. (Image: Corrie Bond. Styling by Mattie Cronan)
It has been 20 years since Nigella Lawson burst into our kitchens. Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined that How to Eat – penned to memorialise her mother Vanessa Salmon and sister Thomasina whom she nurtured through battles with cancer – would catapult her to instant stardom.
"I really wrote it for myself, to remember them, to pour out all of the grief, I think," she says.
"I could never, ever have imagined the response, and to be honest I don't think I could've written it if I'd imagined what the response would be. It would've been utterly paralysing.
"I wrote this as someone who cooks at home for other home cooks. I don't have any particular skills and I don't like anyone to read it thinking I do. I don't want people to expect too much because I'm not an expert, and I don't know the technicalities of cooking. I just deal with the flavour, which is why it worked I think."
How to Eat sold over 300,000 copies and led to her eponymous television shows. Prior to her trip to Australia, Nigella recorded an audio version of her debut work.
"I had such a jaw-ache from talking, it's a very long book!" she laughs.
The secret of her success, she says, is to remain totally unplanned.
"I don't ever like to plan too much. I'm not strategic and I've never looked for the next gap in the market. I just do whatever takes my fancy – I write the books I want to write. I never want to write a recipe for the sake of filling a gap – I have to want to cook it myself. It would make me very deflated to work to a formula."
Although she argues it's been somewhat accidental, Nigella Lawson was probably always destined for life in the public eye.
Her mother, Vanessa, was heir to the famous British food and catering business J Lyons & Co; her father, Nigel, one of Britain's most powerful political figures as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was right-hand man to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Nigella shows off her gorgeous curves in our exclusive AWW shoot. (Image: Corrie Bond. Styling by Mattie Cronan)
At the time of our interview, Britain is embroiled in the historic Brexit negotiations and I ask what it was like growing up at the coal-face of political life, given the current situation.
"I was 14 when my father went into politics and I don't have the same political opinions as my father," she says choosing her words carefully.
"It's an odd time to be away from the UK right now, but I follow things very closely – you have to take an interest in politics.
"When I was younger, people with all different views of the world mixed and got along and respected and enjoyed one another's company. Now we don't seem to do that. I'm afraid we live in a world now where differences of opinion aren't tolerated, which is a great shame. It's difficult to see how we can resolve things when everything is so polarised. We stick with people who share the same views and that worries me. I don't think that someone who has a different opinion is an evil person, they're just someone with a different opinion."
In fact, she welcomes robust political discussion around her dinner table.
"Nothing is off limits at my dinner table, and politics is very much allowed. The only thing I don't tolerate is people being on their phones. I think one of the most important things around a dinner table is conversation. If the best thing about the dinner party is the food, then it hasn't been a great success, the conversation is vital."
WATCH BELOW: Nigella makes a delicious chocolate cake. Story continues after video.
There's not a day that goes by that Nigella isn't photographed or followed by the paparazzi. Her pictures regularly appear in the pages of gossip magazines and tabloid papers with every detail of her life raked over mercilessly, from the shocking attack by former husband Charles Saatchi outside a London restaurant and the subsequent details of their ugly divorce, including allegations of drug use.
She's weathered every storm and never complains about the spotlight, but perhaps she gave a hint of her thoughts on life in the public eye when she recently retweeted a graffito from a wall in Manchester. It read: "In the future everyone will want to be anonymous for 15 minutes". It was artist Banksy's re-imagining of the famous Andy Warhol quote.
"Yes I love that!" she enthuses. "You can't escape the world any more. I try not to be guarded, my life is very open and I don't want to ever feel like I have to be guarded, but I'm not enormously comfortable feeling like I'm being scrutinised or looked at. I don't have a life that is made up of going to premieres or red carpet things, that's not my cup of tea, so I don't feel like I am in the public eye, but it's difficult to disentangle what I do.
"I do like the idea of going around to a friend's house and knowing them so well you don't wear make-up and there's no polished on-camera look, and my clothes are so baggy I may as well be in my PJs! If I can get away with wearing schlumpy things and no make-up I will."
Nigella with her fellow MasterChef judges George, Matt and Gary. (Image: Channel 10)
Nigella also does her best to ensure the lives of her two children, Cosima and Bruno, now in their 20s, are kept similarly low-key.
"I'm very protective of my children because they don't want attention, it's not their thing and they didn't choose this life," she explains. "In many ways I don't feel like I chose it either, but I guess that's what happens if you go on TV."
Nigella turned 59 the day after she arrived in Australia and I ask out of curiosity what the future holds. There are more cookbooks and more TV shows of course, but I sense there's another chapter still waiting to be written and her answer is as reflective as it is surprising.
"There was a time when I thought I'd become a death doula, and it still really interests me, that sort of work, nurturing people at their most vulnerable. I don't know whether I'd be good at it. Maybe it comes from nurturing my mother and sister and husband through their deaths, but it's a very profound and moving thing to be involved with and I'm not embarrassed or frightened around death. I do feel like I'd like to do something useful with my life. I'm deeply interested in people and their complexities."
Nigella pictured heading to court to give evidence in her ex-husband Charles Caatchi's fraud trial. (Image: Getty)
In the background, her publicist politely taps his watch, indicating our time is almost up, or perhaps our conversation is straying into unknown territory.
She'll be back to Australia soon, she says, rattling off a wish-list of places and adventures she hopes to tick off on her next visit.
"I very much want to go to Lord Howe Island and I've never been to Darwin but it really interests me, although someone told me I'd be fried to a frazzle if I went there. Noosa sounds wonderful, and I visited Tasmania last time I was here and it was fabulous.
"Honestly, there are so many places that are beautiful and intriguing, my list grows every time I visit and I always add a little more time than first scheduled so I can just mooch around as I wish.
"I feel so inspired when I'm here. The food, the wine and the people – everything's good in Australia – and there's a quality of light here that I find incredibly uplifting. It's astonishing for me to have a summer birthday, I've had a winter birthday all of my life and I do love having a summer birthday.
"I'm very passionate about Australia. You know, I'm considered something of a traitor in Britain because I like Vegemite more than Marmite now!" she says, flashing that dazzling smile one last time.

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