I met up with Celia Brooks Brown, celebrity vegetarian chef, who came to South Africa for the Good Food and Wine Show.
The show took place in Cape Town from 26-29 May and which will also be taking place in Durban (28-31 July) and in Johannesburg (22-25 September).
Early on Friday morning, in the lovely setting of the Cape Grace’s conservatory that was set out with a delicious breakfast spread, the celebrity chefs who were giving live demonstrations at the Cape Town Good Food and Wine Show had stepped out from their spots in front of the TV cameras and into the room.
I had just been helped to a cup of coffee and took my first sip as I turned around to Celia Brooks Brown (of Saturday Kitchen on BBC1 and Great Food Live on UKTV FOOD fame) who casually said hello.
Her easy manner and lilting voice and accent gave away that she is an American based in London. When I asked her how she enjoys London, she told me that it was very different to where she grew up, having been born and living in Colorado before she moved to England in 1989 to pursue a career in the theater in London.
She does, however, spend more time out in the outdoors now that she has an allotment in North London where she can grow her own produce. It’s just a short walk from where she lives and she explains that she really loves working on it and that it’s a great way to get back to nature in a big city.
I couldn’t help but point out how lucky we are to live side-by-side with nature in South Africa - especially a city like Cape Town and I motioned towards Table Mountain.
She also asked about some of our great local produce and I mentioned that more and more organic markets have sprung up around the country in recent years.
It was easy to chat to Celia and she told me how her passion for cooking developed as she discovered that she felt less at home in amongst the arty stage types and taking on a job working for Stanly Kubrick’s wife, as a caterer of vegetarian food.
Her talent and desire for cooking was nurtured by Christiane Kubrick who also helped her self-publish her first cookbook Vegertarian Foodscapes.
She has since published six cookbooks, her latest being New Urban Farmer: From plot to plate (Quadrille, March 2010) and has appeared in a number of TV shows since she wrote and presented her own show Vegging Out.
In addition to her love of good food and she also loves that food is like a little bit of theater in itself.
The production and the presentation – colour, smell and taste – all amount to a performance in it’s own right!
Which is true – I had seen her in action the day before at the good food and wine show, teaching participants and onlookers how to make “Bejeweled Cauliflower” – a dish whose very name sounds beautiful.
Celia’s enthusiasm for knowledge of food also came through as she explained to her audience various interesting facts about the spices she was using.
She is also dedicated to teaching others that vegetarian cooking need be neither dull nor boring.
She told me that that was one of the reasons why she never followed an official chefs qualification – because she would never want to learn to debone meat or cook a rare steak.
But her aim is to inspire others in the kitchen and, if she can, to counteract the stigma that vegetarian eating is somehow deficient and to inspire one vegetarian a day.
And this she certainly does do through her own delicious cooking demonstrations and Gastrotours through London.
Perhaps her theatrical training has come in handy after all – as I'm sure other celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and James Martin, who made an appearance at the show along with our own Evita Bezuidenhout, will tell you.