Mention the name ‘Fanny Cradock’ to anyone, young or old, and they tend to simply snigger, make an innuendo-heavy reference to doughnuts or squirm at the thought of long-forgotten meals disguised under layer-upon-layer of ever-increasingly bizarre food-colourings and flourishes of garnish. She is, at least, remembered. She was hard to forget.
Her legacy collapsed faster than you could say ‘freshly baked soufflé’ when she died twenty-five years ago. It became popular to talk her down; laughing at her appearance captured as if in aspic on YouTube, discussing the ‘shocking’ way she treated her assistants and husband-come-sidekick, Johnnie, repeating rumours that she ‘couldn’t cook anyway’, was rude to everyone she ever met and spent her days swanning around her kitchen in elaborate ball-gowns barking orders as she went…
However, there is much more to Fanny Cradock than even the most elaborately pencilled-in eyebrow might suggest. The ‘real’ story is just as weird, wonderful and wacky as the myths that persist…
Fanny Cradock had many careers; she was the mistress of reinvention before Madonna had even considered it. She was an entrepreneur, business-woman, activist, journalist, food critic, travel guru, food demonstrator, fiction writer, children’s author, cookbook creator, media personality and, as she is most remembered, a television cook – the first ‘celebrity chef’. Fanny deliberately created the over-the-top persona which catapulted her into the living rooms of millions of British viewers in the 1950s, riding high as the ‘television celebrity chef’ until the 1970s, enabling her to remain in the hearts and minds of the public to this day.
Keep Calm and Fanny On – The Many Careers of Fanny Cradock takes an amusing, entertaining and lively look at her life and work. Expertly and meticulously researched in her own archives and others, through speaking to those who knew her best – friends, family, colleagues, and those fortunate enough to experience her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent over the decades.
With a Foreword from Nicholas Parsons and contributions from her assistants and family members as well Dame Esther Rantzen, Gyles Brandreth, Sir David Attenborough, Nick Owen, Prue Leith, Diana Henry and Evangeline Evans, Keep Calm and Fanny On – The Many Careers of Fanny Cradock re-draws, re-evaluates and re-tells the remarkable story of Fanny Cradock.