BOOK FESTIVAL: Prue Leith – “Scotland is better than England” when it comes to teaching pupils to cook


BAKE OFF Judge Prue Leith declared, “Scotland is better” after being quizzed by members of the audience about cooking.

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Leith, 79, explained that in England students aren’t given the chance to study cooking after they sit their GCSE exams unlike Scottish pupils who have the choice of sitting relevant cooking qualifications at higher.

The quirky chef charmed the audience of the sold-out show with her charismatic stories of her life, cooking and frank opinions on Saturday promoting her first cookbook in 25 years.

The chef turned novelist entered the stage on a wheel chair explaining she thinks she broke her Achilles tendon joking with the audience: “If you are my age, you shouldn’t jump.”

When asked by an audience member about if she ever lost interest in cooking she discussed the industry and its problems before she quickly discussed education.

She said: “In England we have cooking at GCSE but there are no A levels in cooking so why would anyone consider a career in cooking. Scotland is better.

“I think we need to pay more in restaurants for the food to allow the chefs to work less hours and get a better wage.

“I’ve been quite lucky as I never worked for someone else that long. I was always doing my own recipes. There are many problems in the industry such as the long working hours for little.

“It is usually when the chefs become tired they start losing interest and then leave the industry. The head chef is usually fine as they are paid quite well.”

She discussed the issue of food waste with mediocre food fuelling the problem arguing the “Scots are worse than the English” when it came to complaining about food.

“They don’t do it enough,” she said: “They could talk to the chef and ask them to taste it. It is not worth the calories. mediocre food.

“It could be a sandwich but it must be good. We have to do something to tackle this problem because if we accept it, it will just encourage it.

“We should complain if the food isn’t good. We should try and eat meat twice a week and spend more money on better quality this way it isn’t cruel to the animals; it tastes better and it’s healthier.”

Leith learned to cook at the Cordon Bleu cookery school in Paris, which led to her writing cookbooks, opening a Michelin star restaurant and then her own cooking school.

She discussed this with Scottish chef Sue Lawrence. It never occurred to her learn to cook when she was younger growing up in apartheid South Africa.

She said: “My mother was the worst cook you could get. We had this wonderful cook, which I could have learned from but, it never occurred to me or my parents as in South Africa I came from a white privileged background.”

The Bake-Off judge went onto to explain to Lawrence how she never realised how treasured the Great British Bake Off television show was by the British public.

Before, revealing that she had to undertake two auditions for the role. The first audition was on set and the second stage was at Paul Hollywood’s house to test the chemistry between the pair. This included her attempting the technical challenge for Paul Hollywood.

She added: “I had to go to Paul’s house for the second audition to test our chemistry and stuff. I really wanted the job.

“The second audition was to be a technical. I didn’t know what it was so I watched an old episode of Mary and Paul and found it. It was where they discussed this perfect bake.

“I decided I was going to arrive at Paul’s house with this perfect cake to impress them so I got the job. I followed this boozy Austrian recipe and when it came out it wasn’t perfect.

“So, I tried the Leith’s cookery bible version and it came out perfect. My husband checked it and said it would never get pass Paul Hollywood. I never went to the audition with a cake but, I never told them about it.”

At one stage of the show, Leith got a round of applause for her comments questioning cultural appropriation.

She said: “I was told by my publicist I wasn’t allowed to tweet a picture of myself with a sombrero as I would be accused of cultural appropriation.

“You can’t write for a woman who is a lesbian if you are a man. You can’t write about a lesbian character if you aren’t a lesbian. I think it is a lot of rubbish but you must really understand about their culture.

“I think political correctness is crazy and has gone too far. You have to be sensible. If you write a book that never offends anyone it will be very boring.”

This session was jam packed of humour, quirkiness and charm. Prue Leith was very entertaining and thought provoking.

Prue: My All-time Favourite Recipes Prue Leith is available to buy now.