As the new judge on MKR (the show formerly known as My Kitchen Rules), Lawson has been sharing her wisdom with contestants around the country in the search for the best Australian home cook. But it’s not just a one-way street. The 62-year-old says she continues to learn and believes the best place to do that is around the dining table.
“I think I learnt something from all around the table,” says Lawson, who has published 13 cookbooks and sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
“I suppose it’s really about learning that you just carry on learning. We all make mistakes and you don’t have to stop making mistakes – that’s an important part of learning.
“MKR had a very intimate feel in a way because you are in people’s homes and you’re chatting around the table. It instantly reminded me of the connection food makes and about how important it is because connection is something that helps society flourish, but it’s also a deeply personal connection.”
For Lawson, losing that connection over food and around the table was one of the most difficult things during the past few years of lockdowns and isolation. While she learned to enjoy her solitude and bonded with her legion of fans by directly communicating on Twitter, taking her seat at the table filled her with joy again.
“If you say to me what is one of your most favourite things to do, I would say, ‘Sitting around a table talking – especially talking about food – and eating.’ It’s absolutely my idea of heaven and that is what MKR is.
“It’s a really interesting program because you do bond so much with everyone around the table – you are eating and talking with the same collection of people, and then you get to know each other and you find out about people’s attitudes towards food and you have a lot of laughs, too. Everyone has had a bit of a difficult time over the past few years and it’s like snatching at pleasure. It just felt like such a positive thing after many, many months of isolation or of feeling these things weren’t possible. It felt like this snatching back at life and I just tried to enjoy it as much as possible.”
WATCH: Nigella Lawson on MasterChef. Story continues.
With her saucy delivery and flirtatious persona, one of the most anticipated aspects of the new season is seeing how the chemistry between Lawson and her fellow judge, Frenchman Manu Feildel, plays out.
“Manu’s a terrible tease,” gushes Lawson, describing working with him as a “dream”.
“He’s so lovely, he’s such a lovely man. He had me in stitches for much of the time travelling about Australia, and he likes making people laugh and he likes making people at ease.
“There’s something so positive about his energy, and it’s very lovely working with someone so at ease in their own skin and such a genuinely lovely guy. I enjoyed it enormously and was very grateful for that opportunity.”
And the feeling was mutual. Feildel, who has been with the series since its inception in 2010, says he bonded with Lawson – who he says “sparkles” – over their love of food.
“Nigella was a dream to work with,” he says.
“I enjoyed every moment. Nigella is a wonderfully interesting lady with many food – and other – stories to tell. A woman after my own heart. She was always happy unless she was hungry!”
Lawson’s addition to the show will give it the extra celebrity pulling power it needs for the reboot that producers are hoping will return it to the ratings-winner it once was. This season is set to be shorter, with a more supportive tone. Lawson, whose first TV series, Nigella Bites, hit screens in 2000, says she won’t be part of a show that focuses on criticism when it is not constructive.
“If criticism isn’t constructive, it’s useless. It’s counterproductive and I don’t see the point in that. It’s very important to be able to talk about how everyone has done in the kitchen in a way that’s respectful and encouraging, because you want people to, at all times, be able to get better in a way that makes them feel better about what they’ve done as well – there’s no point beating yourself up.”
My Kitchen Rules premieres on Channel 7 on Sunday, August 7.