Who’s going to be the next Nigella Lawson?
GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE
ONCE, Nigella ruled. Now there’s a battle for her domestic goddess crown – and style is just as important as the ability to whip up a crème brulée. Meet the contenders… RACHEL KHOO Style: From her immaculately painted lips (often pink, but best when they’re true red) to her chunky short fringe (all the better for showing off her inquisitively coquettish brows), the look is pure Amélie.
Khoo’s clothes underline what her makeup bag is getting at. The obligatory Nigella-ish cropped cardigans are present and correct in powder blues and hot pinks.
The dresses hint at that carefree-girl-on-apush- bike-shopping-at-a-vegetable-market cliché, but on closer inspection those polka-dot dresses with elasticated belts are more likely from the vintage rails at Topshop or the sanitised online vintage boutiques found in the “marketplace” section of asos.com. But there’s nothing wrong with that.
Background: Most cookery shows sell viewers the dream of a kitchen kitted out like a Nasa control console, with enough baby oil-buffed stainless steel to wrap around a MiG jet fighter. On BBC2’s The Little Paris Kitchen, Khoo makes do with two gas rings and a toaster but, thanks to her training at Le Cordon Bleu school, Paris (she specialised in patisserie, but working in the French capital as a cookery coach, caterer and food creative for six years has broadened her range far beyond that), she’s able to rustle up utterly convincing pornographie gastronomique even with such limited equipment. The Khoo TV blueprint is bed-sit cooking as reimagined by Joel Robuchon and Francois Truffaut, and manages to make pushing lemon curdinjected raspberries into madeleine batter seem an entirely necessary thing to do.
Kitchen: Khoo’s show was filmed in her 226 sq ft bijou apartment in the hip Belleville district of Paris, her garret-like kitchen so small she can stretch out both arms and touch the walls (and, yes, she still lives there).
Unlike most TV kitchens, it’s of a size that many viewers can relate to. In it are two cooking rings, a mini-oven, functional vintage kitchenware, pots of herbs, armfuls of utensils squeezed on to hooks – and, if you look hard enough, fairy lights twisted around the water pipes. The break-out star is a bank of Moroccan-style mosaic tiles behind the sink – try Topps Tiles’ new Tangier Taupe tile, or Habibi Interiors’ mosaic panels. Making an appearance in every episode, too, are a mint green lidded casserole dish, a chipped cream colander and a chalkboard mounted on a cupboard.
GIZZI ERSKINE Style: The demi-beehive, the pokerstraight glossy fringe and the penchant for leopardprint: Erskine is the punk who went gourmet, and her wardrobe is just clamouring to tell us that. Not for her a Boden dress with butterfly sleeves and an ever-so-predictable twinset. If you didn’t know what she did, your best guess would be musician (she DJs in her spare time, as it happens). With those Peter Pan collars on vintage lace shifts, she is the missing sartorial link between Lily Allen and Pearl Lowe in their wholesome country incarnations.
The blue eyeliner nods to next season Stella McCartney, while the highwaisted jeans and 1960s necklines say Camden, not kitchen.
Background: When Erskine was voted Britain’s Sexiest Chef in the 2009 Annual Kitchen Crumpet Awards, the Nigella comparisons followed as inevitably as chocolate fondant pudding follows lamb shank on a gastropub menu. But she’d far rather be compared to Delia than to anyone else – from her book, Gizzi’s Kitchen Magic, to her recent TV project, Channel 4’s Cookery School, she’s way more focused on tooling up her audience with cooking techniques than on alerting them to the sexual- metaphor potential of salted caramel sauce. Not that she subscribes to the Delia school of unchallenging, reassuring coziness – contestants on Cookery School will attest to the fact that, if they fail to deliver the goods, she’s happy to wield an iron fist in a (vintage print) oven glove. Perhaps that seam of steel is no surprise – she’s named both Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain as two inspirations, and supported herself through her training at Leiths by working weekends at a body-piercing studio. Her determination paid off, and graduating top of her class won her a much-coveted internship on BBC Good Food magazine – though, perhaps unsurprisingly for someone whose distinct look is as important a part of her brand as her cooking, rather than print it’s the slightly more glamourous medium of TV that’s proving her more usual home.
Kitchen: Erskine doesn’t have a signature kitchen… yet. Instead, she cooks in everything from the loft apartment-style set of Cookery School to This Morning’s cozier, modern design with improbably large central island, big fridges and disco ball lightshades; Drop Down Menu, Channel 4’s daily magazine food show at the end of 2011, meanwhile, had the Erskine beehive strutting its stuff in a dark wood and chrome-tastic mock-up of a footballer’s wife’s fantasy kitchen. On Cook Yourself Thin, meanwhile, she eschewed sets altogether and headed to real people’s kitchens.
LORRAINE PASCALE Style: With that impossibly perfect smile and colourful cashmere knits, Pascale more resembles a preppy J Crew catalogue model than sweaty chef. But then, she did start out as a catwalk model. Her wardrobe pushes the exmodel shtick, too: bright sweaters, white shirts and jeans. It’s unthreatening and wholesome – and made her the darling of glossy women’s magazines.
Refreshing as it is that Pascale has eschewed the 1950s housewife thing, her athletic, vitamin-enriched look is misleading – there’s no way you’ll look that good if you try to emulate her baking expertise.
Background: After quitting the catwalk, Pascale was developing a surreally broad portfolio career (hypnotherapist, interior designer and car mechanic are all on her CV) until she signed up for Leiths famously thorough Diploma of Food and Wine and found her calling. She acquires certificates the way other chefs acquire stove burns (as well as the Leiths diploma, she has a first in Culinary Arts Management and an International Culinary Arts degree), but it’s her devotion to the cupcake that triggered her ascent to celebrity chefdom – her cake shop, Ella’s Bakehouse, scored her, her first TV series, BBC2’s Baking Made Easy, swiftly followed by Home Cooking Made Easy. Both accompanying books outsold Jamie Oliver.
Kitchen: As befits a baking supremo, Pascale’s on-screen kitchen is all about the ovens: floor-to-ceiling steel monsters provide a serious backdrop to her cooking.
Unlike other TV kitchens, Pascale’s eschews girliness for hard edges, steel shelving and gadgets – most notably her chrome KitchenAid Artisan mixer , digital scales and a classic butcher’s apron that keeps her white shirt clean. The set’s only nod to homeliness is splashes of scarlet in the form of a Roberts revival radio and salt and pepper mills.