(1958-04-09) 9 April 1958 (age 56) Wolverhampton, England
food writer, journalist, author, TV broadcaster
Nigel Slater (born 9 April 1958) is an English food writer, journalist and broadcaster. He has written a column for The Observer Magazine for over a decade and is the principal writer for the Observer Food Monthly supplement. Prior to this, Slater was food writer for Marie Claire for five years. He also serves as art director for his books.
Food is, for me, for everybody, a very sexual thing and I think I realised that quite early on. I still cannot exaggerate how just putting a meal in front of somebody is really more of a buzz for me than anything. And I mean anything. Maybe that goes back to trying to please my dad, I don't know. It's like parenting in a way I suppose.
On 9 April in 1958, Nigel Slater was born in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, to factory owner Tony Slater and housewife Kathleen as the third and youngest son. His mother died of asthma in 1965 when he was nine. In 1971, his father remarried, to Dorothy Perrens, until his death three years later.
According to the BBC article Competitive cooking: Why do we bother?, Slater claims in his autobiography Toast that he used food to compete with his stepmother Dorothy for his father's attention. Their biggest battle was over lemon meringue pie – his father's favourite. She refused to divulge her recipe, so Slater resorted to subterfuge in order to turn out his own version. "I'd count the egg-shells in the bin, to see how many eggs she'd used and write them down. I'd come in at different times, when I knew she was making it. I'd just catch her when she was doing some meringue, building up that recipe slowly over a matter of months, if not years." An alternative account of this episode is given by Ann, his step-sister, who claims that she made the pie, not her mother, and that the recipe was from a cookbook.
He gained an OND in catering at Worcester Technical College in 1976, and proceeded to work in restaurants and hotels across the UK before becoming a food writer for Marie Claire magazine in 1988. He became best known for uncomplicated, comfort food recipes presented in early bestselling books such as The 30-Minute Cook (1994) and Real Cooking, as well as his engaging, memoir-like columns for The Observer which he began in 1993.
Television and radio
In 1998, Slater hosted the Channel 4 series Nigel Slater's Real Food Show. He returned to TV in 2006 to host the chat/food show A Taste of My Life for BBC One and BBC Two. In 2009, he presented the six-part series Simple Suppers on BBC One, and a second series the following year.
In November 2013 he starred alongside Adam Henson on BBC's 'Nigel and Adam's Farm Kitchen' Adam Henson the farmer and Nigel Slater (the chef) join forces to sow, grow rear and cook Britain's favourite foods, from a working farm in the Cotswolds, as they try to get people back in touch with where our food comes from.
Slater's book, Eating for England: The Delights & Eccentricities of the British at Table (Fourth Estate), is devoted to British food and cookery. It was published in October 2007 and was described in The Sunday Times as "the sort of ragbag of choice culinary morsels that would pass the time nicely on a train journey". His book Tender is the story of his vegetable garden, how it came to be and what grows in it. The book was published in two volumes; the first is on vegetables, which was released late in 2009 and the second is on fruit, which was released in 2010. Tender is described as a memoir, a study of fifty of our favourite vegetables, fruits and nuts and a collection of over five hundred recipes.
I think the really interesting bits of my story was growing up with this terribly dominating dad and a mum who I loved to bits but obviously I lost very early on; and then having to fight with the woman who replaced her.... I kind of think that in a way that that was partly what attracted me to working in the food service industry, was that I finally had a family.
Slater became known to a wider audience with the publication of Toast: The Story of a Boy's Hunger, a moving and award-winning autobiography focused on his love of food, his childhood, his family relationships (his mother died of asthma when he was nine) and his burgeoning sexuality. Slater has called it "the most intimate memoir that any food person has ever written".Toast was published in Britain in October 2004 and became a bestseller after it was featured on the Richard & Judy Book Club. As he told The Observer, "The last bit of the book is very foody. But that is how it was. Towards the end I finally get rid of these two people in my life I did not like [his father and stepmother, who had been the family's cleaning lady]—and to be honest I was really very jubilant—and thereafter all I wanted to do was cook." A film based on the book also called Toast, starring Freddie Highmore as the 15-year-old Slater and Helena Bonham Carter as his stepmother, has been broadcast on BBC One. Slater's negative portrayal of his step-mother is challenged, however, by his step-sisters.
Slater has two older brothers, Adrian and John. Slater's parents adopted John, a neighbour's child, before Slater was born. He also has two step-sisters, from whom he is estranged.
Slater lives in the Highbury area of North London, where he maintains a kitchen garden which is often in his column.