Nigella Lawson hates being referred to as an expert. She jokes about her poor knife skills, and often declares greed to be her only qualification. “Because I’ve been doing it so long, people do still try and push me into the expert arena. And I’m not,” she says. “I always say, ‘Whatever you do, don’t ask me a technical question.’”

What many fans don’t realise is that she isn’t, and was never, a chef. Nor even a trained cook. In fact, her debut work, the 20-year-old How to Eat, was penned as an antidote to the intimidating books being released by professional chefs at the time. It made serious waves in 1998 with its countercultural idea that cooking should be simple, fast, fun and reflect the flavours and ingredients the cook likes. It was about the pleasure of eating, and it didn’t contain a single food photograph.

Lawson decided a book like it was required after seeing a friend in tears at a dinner party because her crème caramel had failed to set. How to Eat sold 300,000 copies and changed the way an entire generation approached the kitchen. Snobbery was out and stress-free, communal dining was in. It also included recipes for roasted cauliflower, kale and smashed avocado long before they were a fixture in restaurants and cafes across the Western world.

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How to Eat also revealed Lawson as an exceptional writer, something we might overlook now, in light of her TV appearances, public speaking and 1.4 million followers on Instagram. Before she went global, Lawson was a journalist whose talent for words saw her rise rapidly through the ranks. She’s the daughter of British politician Nigel Lawson and a socialite mother whose family owned a company that ran teashops, restaurants and hotels. They had four children together before divorcing when Nigella was 20 years old.

Lawson was only in her mid-twenties when she became the Spectator magazine’s restaurant critic, and was then appointed the deputy literary editor of Britain’s the Sunday Times. After going freelance, she looked after a bimonthly food column for the New York Times and was a cookery writer at British Vogue.

Lawson never intended to become a food writer – she simply loved to cook and took notes every time she was in the kitchen. She wrote How to Eat in her thirties, as a mother of two young children. Juggling motherhood with cooking meals informed the need for practical recipes devoid of ingredients you’d have to make a special trip to an obscure shop for. She wove personal tales through that first cookbook, sharing stories about her mother, who died at 48, and her sister Thomasina, who passed away aged 31 – both from cancer – and the times they’d had together in the kitchen or around the table. The book’s intimate nature, described by Lawson as an “almost autobiography”, resonated with readers. In a sense, it was just what she was doing at the time.

Her first television show, Nigella Bites, aired a year later and her other major success, How to Be a Domestic Goddess, came out in 2000 and earned her the British Book Award for Author of the Year. To date, Lawson has sold 10 million of her books worldwide.

The queen of the kitchen says her secret is simple authenticity. “Everyone might like looking at beautiful images on Instagram, but it doesn’t make people feel invited to cook,” she says. “What makes people feel invited to cook is seeing how it’s done in a real way, and it being more of a conversation. I have a lot of words in my books because it has to be a conversation. I don’t want to just make it a bold formula. You can go online for that.”

It also helps that her recipes are foolproof. “Every recipe I’ve cooked over and over again in my own kitchen, and each time I do it I can make it simpler,” she says. “That’s my connection with people. I cook at home in the same way as my readers or my viewers do at home.”

In October, a 20th-anniversary vintage reprint of How to Eat was released, and Nigella has embarked on a speaking tour about her early days, which will reach Australia in January 2019.

In the meantime, the domestic goddess will fly to Western Australia for the annual Margaret River Gourmet Escape. This November will be her second visit to the region, and the Londoner has thoroughly fallen in love with it. “London is beautiful but there’s no horizon, there’s always something in front of your eyes. For me, it’s a revelation to come to Margaret River,” she says.

Lawson will be hosting a tea party, a beach barbeque and a supper feast, as well as doing book signings and appearances at the Gourmet Village. There are still tickets to sit stageside as she speaks.

She says she particularly loves the fusion of Margaret River’s relaxed atmosphere with the locals’ fierce passion for food. “Whether it’s one particular loaf of bread they bake, or how they make the wine, or how they raise their sheep, or the herbs they’re using, everyone is so devoted to it,” she says. “You get a sense of being bathed in an enormous amount of enthusiasm. In a setting of such beauty, there’s nothing like it.”

Nigella Lawson will appear at Margaret River Gourmet Escape on November 16 to 18, and tour Australia in January and February 2019. Tickets are available at gourmetescape.com.au and nigellaliveonstage.com.

Adelaide
Sun January 27 – Adelaide Festival Theatre

Perth
Tue January 29 – Riverside Theatre

Sydney
Sat February 2 – Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall

Canberra
Mon February 4 – Royal Theatre

Hobart
Wed February 6 – Wrest Point Entertainment Centre

Melbourne
Sat February 9 – Hamer Hall

Brisbane
Sun February 10 – QPAC Concert Hall