Not all men speak of chefs. Mine thinks anyone with a saucepan in their hand is a cook. Albeit a famous one, but nonetheless a cook. Used to talks about politics and insurance or financial dramas, the organisers of the function did a splendid job inviting this trÃ©s interesting personality to address the audience. How to casually chat about one’s life that includes an OBE, a couple of restaurants, a Michelin star, some novels, cookbooks… I wonder if the lady herself can remember all the things she has accomplished in her colourful life.
Her autobiography Relish, out recently, provided the opportunity to do just that. Reminisce and remember the events that shaped the life of a very special woman. Brought up in South Africa, and still very fond of the place it seems, Prue too stood at that troublesome threshold with a ‘what to do with the rest of my life’ banner hanging over her head. A trip to France and what else, but the lure of French cuisine popped the lightbulb in her head — cooking was the passionate missing piece.
This could have been the point when the less enthusiastic ‘cooks’ in the audience could have succumbed to the heavy eyelid scenario, but Ms Leith was having none of that. The lady is up there, looking anything but her years in the smartest pair of red ankle boots and captivating the audience with her words. Her story is delicious, in and out of the kitchen. A secret love affair, disastrous events, family life — her curriculum vitae reads like that of a politician, author, mentor, business guru and master chef all rolled into one. For anyone to have achieved such a level of success in her personal and public life, the material for a book flows in abundance. Oh did I mention that she has published umpteen recipe books and a handful of romantic novels to boot? What can this lady not do, I ask and feel my small life ebbing away toward dullness.
Which is silly. Rather than feel overwhelmed by the presence of a remarkable character, still going at the next challenge as she entertains and beguiles everyone in their seats, the woman is a role model of what inspiration, perspiration and a little bit of luck can do. Ms Leith is proud of herself, believes totally in her ability to rise to the occasion and not let anything or anyone steer her from her path.
Everyone was enthralled by her story. A match for any man or woman, we sat up and listened and took a few notes. I doubt anyone would call her a cook to her face — perhaps some may even be inspired to venture into the kitchen as a result of the evening.
Ms Leith is not a motivational speaker. Rather she is motivation itself. Follow by example, I believe the message is.
Photo by Christine van der Merwe