Taking a Leith out of her Book

Being the procrastination prone people that we students are, you’ll have probably come across Prue Leith by way of The BBC’s series The Great British Menu on which she is a judge. This was my initial knowledge of Leith and I had mentally prepared myself for a glorious 20 minute conversation on what is one of my favourite TV shows.

However, when doing background research I was staggered at the number of things which Leith has achieved throughout her career so far, leaving my previous line of inane questioning (“how do you manage to eat so much food in one day?”) somewhat redundant.

B
eing the procrastination 
prone people that we students are, you’ll have probably come across Prue Leith 
by way of The BBC’s series 
The Great British Menu on which she 
is a judge. This was my initial knowledge of Leith and I had mentally prepared myself for a glorious 20 minute conversation on what is one of 
my favourite TV shows. 
However, when doing background 
research I was staggered at the 
number of things which Leith has 
achieved throughout her career so 
far, leaving my previous line of inane 
questioning (“how do you manage to 
eat so much food in one day?”) somewhat redundant.
Leith’s professional career began 
in 1960 with the launch of what 
would go on to become Leith’s Good 
Food, a catering company which supplied food for events. Since then she 
has opened a Michelin starred restaurant, been a food columnist for 
various UK papers, held senior positions in companies such as British 
Rail and The Halifax Bank, worked 
closely with The Schools Food Trust, 
been awarded the Veuve Cliquot 
Business Woman of the Year in 1990, 
an OBE, a CBE, written her autobiography and published five novels. 
When asked how she managed to 
have such a glittering career she replies “I’ve got a lot of energy and have 
the nature that if something is bust 
then I want to fix it. In essence, I can’t 
help interfering in things I think I 
might be good at.”
On top of her OBE and CBE Leith 
has also been awarded no fewer than 
eleven honorary degrees from various universities. “Ridiculous isn’t it. 
I’m very flattered and pleased to have 
them but I’ve never actually finished 
a degree.” Despite being so decorated 
in the public sphere she claims that 
what she is most proud of is achieving harmony in her private life. She 
tells me a story of her son reading 
an article in praise of her in one of 
the papers: “My son asked me if I really ran all those businesses. I said, 
‘Of course I do, why do you think I 
don’t?’ He replied ‘because you’re 
always here.’ He thought I lived at 
home and made cakes!”
Despite her glittering career in 
business and the food industry Leith 
explains that she considers herself “first of all as a novelist but the 
writing became secondary when 
the business became full time.” She 
wrote and co-wrote various cookery 
books but it wasn’t until 1995 that 
her first work of fiction, Leaving Patrick, was published and she made the 
move to becoming predominately a 
novelist. She cites Anthony Trollope 
as being her inspiration, explaining 
that, “he understands the business 
world, the commercial world, and 
what makes people work. If I could 
write a novel half as good as him I’d 
be happy.”
It wasn’t her fiction which grabbed 
the headlines earlier this year 
though. Conceived as a means by 
which she could raise her profile as a 
writer, in September Leith published 
her autobiography, Relish: My Life on 
a Plate. 
In it she details the thirteen year 
affair which she conducted with 
(now her husband) the writer Rayne 
Kruger, then the husband of her 
mother’s best friend. The UK press 
seized upon this fact and all of the attention was focused on this salacious 
love story rather than on Leith’s career achievements. This is obviously 
something which irks Leith: “I knew 
it would be talked about but I didn’t 
think they’d concentrate on it  that 
much.”
As I learned in preparation for 
my interview, it is well worth delving below the surface to find out a 
bit more about Leith and her quite 
remarkable career. Questions about 
consuming large quantities of food 
should probably be left to members 
of the University rugby teaBeing the procrastination prone people that we students are, you’ll have probably come across Prue Leith by way of The BBC’s series The Great British Menu on which she is a judge. This was my initial knowledge of Leith and I had mentally prepared myself for a glorious 20 minute conversation on what is one of my favourite TV shows. However, when doing background research I was staggered at the number of things which Leith has achieved throughout her career so far, leaving my previous line of inane questioning (“how do you manage to eat so much food in one day?”) somewhat redundant.

Leith’s professional career began in 1960 with the launch of what would go on to become Leith’s Good Food, a catering company which supplied food for events. Since then she has opened a Michelin starred restaurant, been a food columnist for various UK papers, held senior positions in companies such as British Rail and The Halifax Bank, worked closely with The Schools Food Trust, been awarded the Veuve Cliquot Business Woman of the Year in 1990, an OBE, a CBE, written her autobiography and published five novels. When asked how she managed to have such a glittering career she replies “I’ve got a lot of energy and have the nature that if something is bust then I want to fix it. In essence, I can’t help interfering in things I think I might be good at.”

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On top of her OBE and CBE Leith has also been awarded no fewer than eleven honorary degrees from various universities. “Ridiculous isn’t it. I’m very flattered and pleased to have them but I’ve never actually finished a degree.” Despite being so decorated in the public sphere she claims that what she is most proud of is achieving harmony in her private life. She tells me a story of her son reading an article in praise of her in one of the papers: “My son asked me if I really ran all those businesses. I said, ‘Of course I do, why do you think I don’t?’ He replied ‘because you’re always here.’ He thought I lived at home and made cakes!”

Despite her glittering career in business and the food industry Leith explains that she considers herself “first of all as a novelist but the writing became secondary when the business became full time.” She wrote and co-wrote various cookery books but it wasn’t until 1995 that her first work of fiction, Leaving Patrick, was published and she made the move to becoming predominately a novelist. She cites Anthony Trollope as being her inspiration, explaining that, “he understands the business world, the commercial world, and what makes people work. If I could write a novel half as good as him I’d be happy.”

It wasn’t her fiction which grabbed the headlines earlier this year though. Conceived as a means by which she could raise her profile as a writer, in September Leith published her autobiography, Relish: My Life on a Plate. 

In it she details the thirteen year affair which she conducted with (now her husband) the writer Rayne Kruger, then the husband of her mother’s best friend. The UK press seized upon this fact and all of the attention was focused on this salacious love story rather than on Leith’s career achievements. This is obviously something which irks Leith: “I knew it would be talked about but I didn’t think they’d concentrate on it  that much.”

As I learned in preparation for my interview, it is well worth delving below the surface to find out a bit more about Leith and her quite remarkable career. Questions about consuming large quantities of food should probably be left to members of the University rugby tea