Skip to main content

Nigella Lawson: Flirtatious celebrity chef

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian, CNN
December 20, 2013 -- Updated 1341 GMT (2141 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fans call Nigella Lawson the "domestic goddess" and "queen of food porn"
  • Trial of ex-assistants gripped media, thanks to disclosure of her drug use and marriage woes
  • "I did not have a drug problem, I had a life problem," Lawson told the court
  • Her marriage to millionaire Charles Saatchi ended this year

London (CNN) -- With her lashings of butter and flirtations with the camera, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson has charmed her many fans by turning everyday cooking into a more sensual experience.

As she's licked her fingers while talking viewers through her recipes, she has earned nicknames such as "domestic goddess" and the "queen of food porn" in the British media.

But her successful cooking career has not been mirrored in her recent personal life. Her 10-year marriage to millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi collapsed after photos of the couple having an argument at a restaurant emerged in June.

In the photos -- which were splashed across the front pages of national newspapers at the time -- Saatchi has his hand around Lawson's throat. Saatchi accepted a police caution for assault, and the couple announced they would divorce soon after.

Since then, the trial of the couple's two former personal assistants -- who were cleared Friday of defrauding Lawson and Saatchi of hundreds of thousands of pounds -- has gripped the media.

Celebrity chef confession
Nigella Lawson Testifies
Celebrity chef: I used cocaine twice

This has mainly been thanks to revelations of drug use by Lawson and insights into her troubled marriage to Saatchi.

During the trial, the two former assistants, Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo told the court they believed the celebrity chef repeatedly used drugs.

Saatchi had said in an e-mail that Lawson had used drugs regularly, but in his testimony before the court last month, he backed off that claim.

The court heard that none of the witnesses had seen her take drugs.

In her own testimony, Lawson, 53, confirmed she had taken cocaine half a dozen times, during two periods of her life, and used cannabis in the past.

But she denied being a habitual user, saying, "I did not have a drug problem, I had a life problem."

'I am not a chef'

Her admission of limited drug use may cause some surprise because of Lawson's connections with the British political establishment.

Born in London, she is the daughter of Nigel Lawson, a former Conservative Party British chancellor of the exchequer, or finance minister.

Her brother Dominic was formerly editor of The Spectator, a British conservative political magazine.

In the 1980s, before Lawson married him, Saatchi ran Saatchi & Saatchi, a leading global advertising agency, with his brother. Its campaigns included the promotion of the Conservative Party under then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

After studying at Oxford University, the celebrity chef began her career in publishing before moving into media, writing restaurant columns.

She met her first husband, John Diamond, while working at the Sunday Times newspaper. The couple had two children. In 2001, Diamond died after a battle with throat cancer.

Lawson went on to contribute to various UK newspapers before writing books.

In 1998, she brought out "How to Eat," in which she stated how food was an early love.

"I am not a chef. I am not even a trained or professional cook. My qualification is as an eater," she wrote.

Her second book -- "How to Be a Domestic Goddess," in which she taught readers how to feel just like that while baking muffins or cakes -- came out two years later and won her the British Book Award for Author of the Year.

Lawson went on to release a string of other successful cookbooks and host numerous cooking television shows, such as "Nigella Bites" in Britain. In the United States, she's been a judge on the ABC show "The Taste," which is due to air its second season starting in January.

She also launched a successful kitchenware line and once oversaw a lunch menu for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Lawson lists her recipes on her website and posts them on her Twitter account.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 12, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Tichleman 1
A makeup artist, writer and model who loves monkeys and struggles with demons.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Lionel Messi's ability is not in question -- but will the World Cup final allow him to emerge from another footballing legend's shadow?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
Why are Iraqi politicians dragging their feet while ISIS militants fortify their foothold across the country?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
An elephant, who was chained for 50 years, cries tears of joy after being freed in India. CNN's Sumnima Udas reports.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 0732 GMT (1532 HKT)
Beneath a dusty town in northeastern Pakistan, CNN explores a cold labyrinth of hidden tunnels that was once a safe haven for militants.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2249 GMT (0649 HKT)
CNN's Ravi Agrawal asks whether Narendra Modi can harness the country's potential to finally deliver growth.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 0444 GMT (1244 HKT)
CNN's Ben Wedeman visits the Yazji family and finds out what it's like living life in the middle of conflict.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Israel has deployed its Iron Dome defense system to halt incoming rockets. Here's how it works.
Even those who aren't in the line of fire feel the effects of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq since extremists attacked.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
People walk with their luggage at the Maiquetia international airport that serves Caracas on July 3, 2014. A survey by pollster Datanalisis revealed that 25% of the population surveyed (end of May) has at least one family member or friend who has emigrated from the country. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Plane passengers are used to paying additional fees, but one airport in Venezuela is now charging for the ultimate hidden extra -- air.
ADVERTISEMENT