The country’s most lovable cook tells us what she's gets up to online.

Rosemary Shrager is one of those rare and brilliant people who has the uncanny knack of putting you at your ease instantly while making you howl with laughter. Our chat rattles through happy tangents that shoot off left, right and centre and, were it not for her busy schedule, she gives the impression of being happy to shoot the breeze for hours on end like old friends. It takes no stretch of the imagination, then, to fathom her extraordinary popularity as a cook and TV personality.

Entirely self-taught, Rosemary’s love of food – making it, talking about it, encouraging others to learn to cook it – fits wholly with her generous and exuberant personality. Despite having no formal qualifications, she has worked for some of the greats, from Pierre Koffman at Tante Claire to Jean Christophe Novelli. She later went on to run courses at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle and Swinton Park, before starting her own cookery school in Tunbridge Wells.

But in tandem with teaching neophytes and keen cooks alike their way around the kitchen, she has also become something of a star of the small screen. Her first turn was in the show Ladette to Lady, in which she schooled the contestants in what would likely be the most enduring aspect of the education the show imparted. Since then, she’s gamely appeared on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, an experience which proved that she can cook anything, anywhere, as well as on The Real Marigold Hotel on Tour, endearing herself to the nation all the while.

It is testament to her strength of character that through lockdown, during which Rosemary lost both her mother and her husband, she has not ceased in her efforts to teach the world to cook easy, delicious and nutritious meals – all via social media, from her East Sussex home. As she says, ‘they’re cook-alongs and they’re created for people to have fun. Children can join in. We all have all these recipe cards we pick up here and there – this is like saying ‘Well, come on, let’s do them together.’ It’s so informal and there is a lovely community that has grown up around it.’

And yet, ever prolific, that’s not all she’s been up to. The Netflix show, Best Leftovers Ever, in which she judges contestants’ efforts to transform unwanted food into culinary masterpieces airs on 30th December, while her Channel 5 Show, Five Go Fishing, goes out in January.

Here, the country’s most lovable cook tells us whose website she’s coveting; why she’s obsessed with murder mysteries; and how all the social media platforms have been a lockdown lifeline.

Follow Rosemary on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to join her cook-alongs.

My favourite website...

I love Raymond Blanc’s website. It’s so stylish and so cool. It moves, it’s informative. I’d love to copy it, but I can’t!

My favourite app...

Well, it has to be my Google Maps app. I just can’t live without it. In the early days, it used to take you to the weirdest places, but it’s got a lot better since then!

My favourite blog...

You can’t beat Jay Rayner’s blog. He’s terrific – I also love his Kitchen Cabinet programme. He’s just so knowledgeable – I remember when I first met him, it was in Manchester, and he took us all to this Chinese restaurant. As we went down the stairs, down past all these loo rolls, it looked really sleazy. But it honestly was the most wonderful food. I still remember it – it was called Red Chilli.

My Internet hero...

Edd Kimber, the former debt collector who won Bake Off. He’s done so well, and he really knows how to use the internet to make his work accessible.

My favourite podcast...

I don’t really listen to a lot of podcasts, but I do love the TV show Succession, and there’s a podcast to go with it. It really is brilliant. You have all the actors discussing the show, which is actually pretty Shakespearean. I just love it.

My most recent buy online...

My twin granddaughters are going to be 12, so I bought them some paints. And I also bought a new camera for my filming, so that I can really do things properly.

Last book you downloaded or read...

I’ve just started the Richard Osman book, The Thursday Murder Club. I adore murder mysteries, and this one is set in an old people’s home, where they all love murder! I thought, ‘It’s me!’ And of course, they start to investigate a murder – it is very clever and funny. The other really clever book I’ve just finished was The Chain by Adrian McKinty. It’s quite spooky – the idea is that someone rings you up and tells you they’ve abducted your child, and to free them you have to both abduct another child and give them money too. A bit grim but so gripping.

Favourite tweeter...

I think old Keith Lemon. The way he tweets is funny and he keeps it going.

Favourite Instagrammer...

Netflix! It’s always telling me what’s new and what to watch. Gone are the days when you sit down and can’t find anything to watch on telly.

Favourite tech gadget...

My KitchenAid oven is absolutely brilliant. It has everything you could ever want and it’s all digital. Oh, and of course, my KitchenAid integrated vacuum drawer. It’s revolutionised my life – it allows food to keep, so ultimately it saves money and time.

The most useful gadget/item on your desk...

My computer. What would I do without it?

Most useful digital resource during lockdown?

Actually, all the platforms were useful. I’ve realised you have to be on all of them because they’re all for different people. Instagram is probably my favourite – it seems to be designed for people who are looking for lovely experiences.

Last thing you binge-watched...

Undercover on Netflix. When I need to switch off, TV is the only thing that really does it for me.

Favourite brands have you discovered online...

Well, I don’t really look for brands too much. But I am doing a lot of vegan food at the moment, and the best brand for vegan butter is Flora. Its plant-based butter is very, very good indeed. It works better than all the others. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t taste of anything, but it does the job well. It’s also packaged nicely – it looks like butter and, psychologically, when you’re giving something up, I think that kind of presentation is important.

The best digital advice I've been given...

Don’t do too much. Don’t swamp it, or people will get bored. It’s a fine balance – don’t overkill but give enough useful information.

My screensaver is...

It’s a picture taken by my friend from the air of my village in East Sussex.

My standout online memory...

Trying to learn how to do it! It’s funny to think that a few years on, I’ve even done a bit of influencing work, which is nice.

My pet online hate is...

All the scams – there are far too many of them. Also, no phones at dinner.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions?

I’m on my own, so I do look at my computer. There’s no switch off for me. It’s my life! If you don’t look at it all the time, you miss things. Though I wouldn’t let my children look at it that much!

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?

Good, absolutely. But we do have to be disciplined and work out some etiquette around it. I wonder if we will morph into these strange creatures that have adapted to spending out lives on computers. Perhaps in a few years all our eyes will either become very large or very small!

By Nancy Alsop
December 2020


Claire Thomson, aka 5 O'Clock Apron Chef
Felicity Cloake, Food Writer and Broadcaster
Adam Handling, Master Chef

Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.