INTERVIEW: Fearne Cotton

‘I’m a kitchen nerd’

TV and radio presenter Fearne Cotton, who has just launched her first cookbook, is working in partnership with Italian appliance brand Smeg. Sean Hannam spoke to her about her love of kitchen tech and retro design and her ideal cooking soundtrack


Q: How did you come to work with Smeg?
Fearne Cotton:
For me, it was a dream set-up. I’m a fan and it’s an aspirational brand – it fits really well with my book. I’ve been working with a lot of cooking apparatus over the past year – the kitchen has become my playground.

Smeg is probably the most reliable kitchen range out there and for them to approach me was just insane. I’ve been doing my cookbook and it seemed like a really good partnership. When I heard the word ‘Smeg’, it was the easiest decision work-wise I’d ever had to make. They’re the most beautiful appliances to use and I’m using the stand mixer in my kitchen every day to make cakes – my son’s obsessed with it. I’m massively nerdy when it comes to the kitchen.

People don’t want an average-looking toaster or kettle – they want things that can be a focal point of the kitchen. My stand mixer is out permanently – it doesn’t get put away in a cupboard. People ooh and ah over it and stroke it – they want coveted appliances. For me, it’s taken over from shopping for shoes and handbags – I’m much more of a kitchen nerd than I am someone who goes and spends loads of money on accessories.

The [Smeg] technology is incredible and amazing to use and it’s been teamed up with good-looking appliances. I love that retro vibe – it works really well in my house – and I love that Smeg is still a family-run company that has stuck to its morals and not compromised itself by doing anything off-brand. Everything I do in my career has to come from an authentic place and feel wholesome, real and genuine, which fits well with Smeg’s business ethos.

L to R: Fearne Cotton with Smeg UK's brand manager John Davies and commercial director Jill Ashford
L to R: Fearne Cotton with Smeg UK’s brand manager John Davies and commercial director Jill Ashford

Q: You’ve just launched your first cookbook – Cook Happy, Cook Healthy. Why now?
It was an organic process. I was one of those people who was Instagramming my food for fun – just a quick dinner I’d made after work, or a cake I’d baked at the weekend. I didn’t think about doing it as a project work-wise – but a lot of people were asking me for recipes, and I thought ‘oh, people actually want to know how I’ve made something’.

I did a version of my cookbook on my computer by myself and then I took it to a bunch of publishers, with a slightly embarrassed look on my face… I found a wonderful publishing house called Orion, who believed in the new project and knew they could do something with it and we worked on it from there. It was like a school project – I was nerdily writing it at home and then it actually turned into a full-blown cookbook, which I was so chuffed with. I’m happy that it’s been well received – it’s doing brilliantly in the charts and it’s getting good customer reviews and social media feedback. People are genuinely using it and enjoying the simplicity of the recipes. I’m over the moon.

Q: What’s your favourite thing to cook?
There’s a beautiful tofu casserole in my book – it’s really quick and easy and it’s full of flavour. I love using tofu. There are a lot of tofu naysayers, who think it’s bland and yucky and unusable in cooking, but it’s how you use it. There are some really great ways of marinating it. I love making non-meat dishes for my husband and surprising him with how filling they are.

Q: Are you a gadget geek?
I am if it’s something that’s going to help me in my life. I’m not a gadget nerd for fun – it has to be practical. If it’s kitchen appliances, I can nerd out all day.

In our house, we’re into music, so anything that’s nerdy or geeky to do with sound or music we love. We have a vinyl record player, a portable record player and a CD player and we’re getting Sonos. My husband’s in a band, so it’s important that we have a good sound set-up – we have music playing constantly.

Q: What’s the best music to cook to?
Oh, Led Zeppelin – all day long.