MIPCOM ’15: Nigella Lawson cooks up soul food with new series

With FremantleMedia International shopping her upcoming series Simply Nigella in Cannes, and deals already in place, the cooking icon talks to realscreen about combining the earthy and ethereal, and dishes about her time with The Taste.
October 6, 2015

Food author, TV host and global cookery icon Nigella Lawson has always trumpeted the value of simplicity in cooking, often taking pains to remind journalists that she does not have “elevated levels of skill.” But with her upcoming 6 x 30-minute series, Simply Nigella, she is paring down the process behind the plates even more, in an effort to bring to viewers and food lovers alike a “mix of the serene and the cozy.”

“All my cooking is simple – I’m not equipped to do otherwise,” she tells realscreen in Cannes. “But this is certainly a simplification. I wanted to show the sense of ease I get from cooking, the sense of aesthetic pleasure – how it soothes and uplifts me and how it helps me decompress at the end of a day.

“The new series has got that right balance of earthiness and yet ethereal light that I wanted to convey,” she continues. “Food is earthy and it makes you feel grounded, but I wanted to talk about food that gives you that sense of calm that makes you feel bright in spirit.”

Working with longtime director Dominic Cyriax but with a new cinematographer, the series – like several others, launched in conjunction with a book of the same name – sees Lawson bringing several of her recipes to life at home and in different locales, including a festive stop to the “fairy light capital of the world,” Kansas, for Christmas. The recipes are designed to showcase what could be called “soul food” – dishes that don’t require huge amounts of skill or stress to create but are nourishing for spirit and body alike.

“The program has two things underpinning it: a combination of the comfort of the familiar and the exuberance of the new,” she explains. “And the environment I want the show to occupy is an unusual combination, but it’s a mix of the serene and the cozy.”

While some press pundits have already drawn a connection between the serenity-centric subject matter and headlines involving Lawson over the last few years, including her split from husband Charles Saatchi, the earthy-ethereal combination has resonated with multiple buyers at this market thus far, with New Zealand’s Prime, Australia’s Foxtel, TV2 in Norway and Discovery Networks in Asia-Pacific already signing on for the BBC Productions series, distributed globally through FremantleMedia International. The program is slated to air on BBC 2 later this year.

Stateside, Lawson appeared in three seasons of ABC’s food competition series from Kinetic Content, The Taste , which was canceled earlier this year. Appearing as a mentor with other celeb chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre and Marcus Samuelsson, Lawson says she found the process enjoyable – “It was three years of being in LA in September, which I liked. And I loved the boys [her co-mentors],” she offers – but felt somewhat disconnected from the format, as “I don’t think of cooking as a competitive sport.

“I enjoyed the discussions, I liked being with the boys and I like seeing a well-oiled machine [behind the production process] in action,” she summarizes. “I made good friends, which is important.”

Lawson’s programs and books resonate with fans and foodies alike in large part due to the host’s evident, unabashed love of all things “food” – of cooking it, serving it and eating it. She says the celebratory aspect is integral to any project she’s involved in.

“I think it’s important to enjoy the pleasures in life, make the most of them, and not turn food into a punishment, or a duty,” she maintains. But even those pleasures should be enjoyed in moderation.

“If you make a cake on television, people think you’re advocating that people should eat a whole cake every day for the rest of their lives,” she quips.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.