In the mix

Lorraine Pascale talks London,
her latest labour of love, and having her (cheese)cake and eating it

On the surface, it seems unlikely that television chef and ex-model Lorraine Pascale and I would have anything in common. She a statuesque, Amazonian beauty; me, freckly and decidedly dumpy. She a world-renowned cook; me famously fined for falling asleep while cooking a pizza, setting the smoke alarms off in the university halls of residence and being woken by the sirens of the approaching fire engines… But there is something – we both love cheese: “If I had to choose between chocolate and cheese for the rest of my life, I’d have to choose cheese! A really strong blue cheese from La Fromagerie in Marylebone is my one temptation,” she explains, wistfully. Me too, me too – we must be kindred spirits.

And of course, there’s a shared love for our fair city; Lorraine was born in London, but raised in Witney, Oxfordshire, and now lives in the Capital again with her teenage daughter. We’re chatting via the magic of FaceTime as she’s currently in Toronto for work. It hasn’t been the easiest trip so far – a four-hour delay on top of an already long flight, plus the bureaucracy of having to sort a work visa on arrival at 2am local time. “I don’t mind working away from home. I might consider moving abroad for a short time, but I’d miss my friends and family too much if I went for long. London is home for me. If I were there right now, I’d be heading to the gym, then straight out to meet friends. We’d have a nice meal somewhere on the Southbank, followed by a walk. And maybe catch a movie later before heading home.”

Lorraine first made a name for herself modelling, hers famously becoming the first British black face to grace the cover of American Elle. After that, a stint as a trainee car mechanic, but she has now been cooking – seriously – for 10 years, since taking a course at Leiths School of Food and Wine. It is a passion that began in childhood, though: “My biggest influence food-wise was my parents. My dad probably cooked more than my mum, but they both made really good home-cooked food.” Her first food memories involve Sunday roasts with mountains of crispy roast potatoes, cooked, of course, in goose fat – “the only way”.

She has Marco Pierre White to thank for her foodie fame, a contact from her modelling days, he put her in touch with the food director at Selfridges’ Food Hall, who commissioned her to make 250 Christmas cakes. A cake shop in Covent Garden, a host of television shows and a shelf-full of bestselling cook books followed and the rest, as they say, is history. Lorraine has become know for her own really good food, cakes in particular – but things are about to change. She’s on a mission to get us all eating healthily, and there’ll be no excuses. “‘Healthy’ is sometimes seen as a bit of a dirty word, so I prefer to use the term eating well,” she explains. “My new book is about creating tasty food that the whole family will enjoy, and that just happens to be healthy. But it definitely still feels indulgent.”

LP_inset2She’s not wrong, I’ve had a peek at the book, and the recipes in Eating Well Made Easy certainly don’t feel like they’re part of a deprivation diet. There are pasta feasts, warming hotpots and decadent chocolate desserts. As Lorraine herself says, “It’s very much everyday food,” and there are definitely “no ingredients you won’t find in the supermarket”. As she sees it, the key to a healthy lifestyle is to make little tweaks, rather than dramatic changes: “So many ways of eating ask you to eliminate whole categories of food, and that can be really restrictive and tricky. A good diet is always in balance.”

It seems that even those with model genes need to watch their figure, and Lorraine’s passion for healthy eating is coupled with a love of working out. “I can’t just eat whatever I want and everything is fine. When you get over the age of 30, you start losing lean muscle, so your metabolism slows down. But if you can replace the lean muscle you lose through natural ageing, you will still be able to eat well.” Great advice, and the reason you’ll catch Lorraine weight training at her local gym most mornings. Or when she’s not at the gym, getting her heart rate up walking her rescue dog, Watson. “I love walking him in London – so many parks and green spaces, and down by the river is beautiful.”

What this all means, of course, is that she can indulge in the occasional trip to La Fromagerie, or enjoy a night out with friends at one of her favourite London eateries: “I like Korobuta on Kings Road and Duck & Waffle in the Heron Tower at Liverpool Street.” I wonder if, now that her cake shop is no more, she might have plans for a restaurant of her own. Perhaps serving up the healthy food she’s about to become famous for. “Possibly. Who knows!” she laughs.

If not that, then almost certainly something – Lorraine likes to be busy, describing it as being “a big driver”. This may be a hangover from her modelling days, which taught her, amongst other things, that: “sitting around doing nothing can sometimes be very exhausting!” That said, she does plan to take a bit of time out before launching herself into the next project. “I would like to relax – to stop running around so much. And to really spend some time letting go and enjoying what I’ve achieved so far. After this book I’ll be taking stock – there are lots of things in the pipeline, but I need to work out which I’d really like to do. Fingers crossed you’ll be seeing more of me on television.” Cakes may now be uncertain, but television, we’re sure, is almost guaranteed. 

Eating Well Made Easy is out now, published by Harper Collins and priced at £20 in hardback. Turn to page 52 to discover one of the delicious recipes