She made her name as Saint Delia, the saviour of helpless cooks, thanks to five decades of instructional cooking programs and books. She is widely considered to be a national treasure thanks to her humble demeanour and cooking style, but how much do you really know about Delia Smith?
Seventy-five-year-old Delia became Britain’s first celebrity chef back in 1973 when she started teaching cooking on BBC One’s Family Fare. She then went on to teach Delia Smith’s Cookery Course, for BBC’s Further Education channel. It was an instant hit and spawned two more series, as well as a string of accompanying cookery course books, which were all best sellers.
Her collection of recipes for singletons was also a best seller in 1985 and led to a TV series of the same name. Five years later it was followed by Delia Smith’s Christmas, a series which still gets aired every festive period. In 1998 her television series on BBC 2, Delia’s How To Cook went back to basics as she focused on teaching people how to boil eggs and make omelettes. Despite retiring from television Delia is still dedicated to teaching the nation how to cook through her website, Delia Online, where she often interacts with fans and shares recipes.
Here are 10 things you might not know about Delia Smith…
She left school at 16 with no qualifications and featured as a swimsuit model
Delia left school and trained as a hairdresser before working in retail as a shop assistant, and then at a travel agency. She told The Graham Norton Show that while she was working at the travel agency she was asked to model for a swimsuit campaign with her fellow female co workers and took the plunge!
Delia isn’t afraid to show some skin
Before she was a TV personality Delia worked as a waitress at a restaurant near Paddington called The Singing Chef, owned by Leo Evans. Delia has confessed she would be routinely told off for flashing the customers when opening wine (we assume unintentionally!).
On her TV show Delia Through The Decades she said: ‘I used to have a mini-skirt on. If I did waitressing and I couldn’t pull the cork out of the bottle, I would put it between my ankles like this – and I used to get told off because I had a mini-skirt.’
She’s very religious
Although she was baptised Church of England Delia converted to Catholicism when she was 22 years-old and has been devoted ever since. She attends mass every day and has even written cookery books with religious themes, such as A Feast for Lent.
She told a Sunday newspaper: ‘I can reach people who would like to cook but are finding it difficult. It’s the same with the spiritual. If people want it, I would like to be able to point them in the right direction.
She’s not afraid to speak her mind
During an interview with the Daily Telegraph Delia spoke her mind about then-rivals Anthony Worrall Thompson and Gary Rhodes. She said: ‘Actually I hate Gary Rhodes’ programmes and I think that Anthony Worrall Thompson is worse: he is dreadful, just repulsive.’
She went on to say: ‘I am not some prim Brownie pack leader – in fact I am a bit of a bitch. I like to sit down with my friends and have a really good bitch.’
Her name was added to the Collins’ English Dictionary in 2001
It was listed because it appeared 700 times in the 418-million word database of English words and phrases from which Collins compiles its dictionary, and as such was deemed a common word.
The explanation of the noun went was said to be the ‘recipes or style of cooking of British cookery writer Delia Smith’. The dictionary also offered the follow definitions:
1. Attributed to or in the style of Delia Smith, a Delia dish 2. The ‘Delia effect’ occurs when millions seek out an ingredient or piece of equipment she has recommended.
She’s a huge footy fan and is even a shareholder
She became a major shareholder at Norwich City F.C with her husband Michael Wynn-Jones in 1996. Over the past 20 years she has been dedicated to investing in the club with her Canary Catering restaurant, which supports local produce.
She is the biggest selling cookery writer of all time
Her books, including Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course and How to Cheat at Cooking, have sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Her influence runs so deep that whenever she’s recommended or used an ingredient in one of her recipes, its sales have increased in supermarkets, hence the phrase, ‘The Delia Effect’. In 1995 she caused a national cranberry shortage and helped a struggling Lancashire firm when she described their omelette pan as a ‘little gem’, prompting sales to leap from 200 a year to 90,000 in just four months.
Delia added CBE to her OBE title in 2009
Speaking after receiving the honour from the Prince of Wales at a Buckingham Palace investiture she said: ‘There are so many people who do so much but to be picked out amongst them is a great honour. I think the main thing is what my husband said, he said it’s sort of a tribute to home cooks all over Britain.’
One of her cakes was on the Rolling Stones album, Let it Bleed.
Delia was asked to make a cake for an advertising commission and had no idea who it was for. She said: ‘I got a phone call saying “Come to the studio, we need a very gaudy cake”. I didn’t know what it was for. I arrived with the cake and I think Keith Richards was there and that was the first I knew it was going on the album.’
She likes a Big Mac now and again
Speaking to The Independent she said: ‘What’s a real treat for me is when I go to evening games at Norwich City with my husband. We have Big Mac picnics in the football car-park. I absolutely love them with fries and loads of ketchup.’
Delia Smith Facts
How old is Delia Smith ? 75: (D.O.B) 18 June 1941
Where was Delia Smith Born? Wynberg Emergency Maternity Hospital in Woking, Surrey.
Who is Delia Smith’s husband? Michael Wynn-Jones
Does Delia Smith have any children? No