Relish: My Life on a Plate by Prue Leith

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Relish: My Life on a Plate by Prue Leith

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A very readable life of someone who has made a difference to the catering industry. It's very frank but without a hint of an axe being ground. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-0857384034

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Prue Leith was born in South Africa, the daughter of a prominent actress who was considered 'dangerously liberal' in her views on race. Prue was largely unaware of the horrors of apartheid and had a privileged lifestyle. She came to London in the early sixties but still retains an awareness of colour as a legacy of her childhood. What didn't come from her childhood was her love of cooking - she drifted into catering almost accidentally but went on to set up a very successful catering company and then to open Leith's Restaurant . Her cookery school and regular food columns in national newspapers followed soon after.

She worked hard - you sense that's an essential part of her character not from what she says but from what she does - but she's played hard too. Her burgeoning sexuality was a concern to her father from her early teens and she's frank about her relationships when extramarital sex was still frowned upon. For thirteen years she had a secret affair with a man who was not only married, but married to a close friend of her mother. Rayne Kruger would later be her husband until his death twenty five years later.

It's strange what really brings someone to your attention. I'd unconsciously known the Leith name for what seemed like forever but it was when my husband, seasoned eater of conference buffet food, went to an event at the QE2 Centre confidently expecting the usual rubber chicken or cardboard sandwich and came home raving about the food that I sat up and took notice. It was, he said, the sort of good food which we ate at home but achieved on a massive scale. So - it wasn't just the usual restaurant hype. And then - when The bookbag had not been going for very long - I reviewed The Gardener and received a lovely email from Prue Leith. I'll confess that I was impressed - but would I be as impressed by her autobiography?

Yes, I was. At the beginning I struggled very slightly to sort out who was who, but the effort of giving just a little more attention paid dividends. Leith is frank about her own actions and as open about her business and personal failures as her successes but she's never gratuitously hurtful and I never - even for a moment - heard the sound of axes being ground. Building her businesses was obviously very hard work but the detail is interesting and informative. It's clear that she doesn't set out to impress but I was blown away by the extent of her achievements.

What impressed me most though was she was still a mother to her children. When she became Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year in 1991 her son Daniel disputed whether this could be correct as she was always at home for him and his sister. Few working mothers will disagree that this was the greatest accolade she could have been given.

This book arrived at the Bookbag courtesy of the Ilkley lIterature Festival where Prue will be appearing on 13 October 2012.

Do read The Gardener - it's a thoroughly enjoyable book. For more lives of cooks we can recoomend Spilling the Beans by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Stirred But Not Shaken: The Autobiography by Keith Floyd.

Buy Relish: My Life on a Plate by Prue Leith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Relish: My Life on a Plate by Prue Leith at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Relish: My Life on a Plate by Prue Leith at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Relish: My Life on a Plate by Prue Leith at Amazon.com.

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