Skip to main content

Nigella Lawson: Flirtatious celebrity chef

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian, CNN
updated 8:41 AM EST, Fri December 20, 2013
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
updated 9:54 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
updated 7:24 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
updated 1:44 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
updated 8:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 3:22 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 6:34 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT