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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.

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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.

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