Star Q&A: Ainsley Harriott

Liz Nicholls

We chat to chef, TV presenter & dad Ainsley Harriott MBE, 65, about love, laughs & living well.

Q. Hello Ainsley! You’ve been cheering the nation up for decades. Do you work hard to take good care of your mental health or are you blessed with being a naturally positive person? “I think people who know me would say that I’m lucky enough to be naturally positive and I genuinely like to have a good laugh whenever possible. I shrug off disappointments fairly easily – it comes from years of following Arsenal…”

Q. What’s the first meal that blew your mind? “I remember my dad regularly taking us all to a Chinese restaurant in Soho when I was a kid. It was a much rarer experience in those days and I loved those meals.”

Q. You’ve had so much success as a writer. Whose books do you love? “Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings has always been an important book to me. As for cookbooks, I’ve always enjoyed anything by Ken Hom.”

Q. We’ve been loving watching your travels on your shows. If you had to pick anywhere in the world, where is your ‘happy place’? “Well, I just returned from a fabulous break at the Coral Reef in Barbados. It’s where I go to really relax, so I guess you could definitely call it my happy place.”

Q. Is there anything you don’t eat? Either because it gives you the ick or you steer clear of? “I’ve no idea why, but the only thing that disagrees with me is cucumber.”

Q. What kitchen gadget could you not do without? “I wouldn’t like to be without my late mum’s dutchie pot.”

Q. What’s your favourite piece of music? And what’s your first memory of music? “Picking one piece of music is impossible, of course, because it completely depends on your mood. I love a bit of Nina Simone – but then again, I often have Classic FM playing throughout the day. My earliest memory of music would be sitting under the piano while my dad, who toured the world as a professional musician, was playing.”

Q. What piece of advice to give to any parent trying to make ends meet in terms of feeding the family? “Plan and stick to a menu for the week. It helps to avoid waste and ought to reduce overbuying.”

Q. Finally, if you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “The same as everyone else: an end to all the constant conflict and all the human misery that goes along with it.”

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