Among the familiar faces at Spring Fair earlier this month was Prue Leith CBE, restaurateur, cookery writer, novelist and a much-loved judge on the Great British Bake Off.
Having released a brand new cookbook Prue, her first for 25 years, Prue was at the show to enthusiastically kick off her first licensed products – two calendars and two diaries entitled Prue – featuring recipes and illustrations from her long awaited cookbook.
What was your impression of Spring Fair?
“Walking through the halls, what really impressed me was that there was such an incredible array of product, and that behind every product there was such a huge production process. It re-enforced to me that we are a nation of doers, and that so many successful businesses start at the kitchen table.”
With your new licensing venture with Portico Designs, can you tell us about Prue Leith the businesswoman?
“I’ve always really enjoyed the business side of things. When I started out, I went into the kitchen because I didn’t want to work in an office. But as I grew the business, other people took my place in the kitchen and I found myself in the office doing the buying and the selling and I loved it. I got a huge buzz from looking at the profit and loss accounts and realising what we had achieved in terms of making a profit, and that the salaries I was able to pay my staff enabled them to feed their families. It gave me an amazing feeling of ‘we did that’. So getting into licensing, and working with Portico Designs on the calendars and diaries, fulfils my ambition to get back into the business side of things. Although it won’t make us a fortune this year, hopefully it will build as the years go on.”
Are you enjoying being a judge on The Great British Bake Off?
“I am. It’s such a lovely programme to work on. Love Productions, who make the show, are a fantastic company and are lovely to the bakers, giving them time to make their bakes. No-one interferes with them. For example, the cameramen aren’t allowed to go over to them and say ‘sorry I missed that shot can you do it again please’. Occasionally Paul Hollywood and I interrupt them, but if we can see it’s a stressful moment then we move on. And one thing I love, that is very different to the American version, which is screened on Netflix, is that the Bake Off contestants genuinely like each other. Plus, Paul is absolutely lovely to work with, and Sandi Toksvig and I are great friends.”
Top: Prue Leith with Charlie Czul, sales director of Portico Designs, at the recent Spring Fair.