Us foody types don’t get many chances to look stylish. I mean, it’s hard to look cool whenever you’re wearing a set of distinctly unfashionable kitchen whites.
In the kitchen, earrings and jewellery in general are a big no-no, but I do my best to accessorise by spattering myself with patches of Aioli, Bearnaise sauce and Spaghetti Bolognese.
If they caught me in their clutches, Trinny and Susannah would no doubt put me into that horrible hall of mirrors, shake their heads in unison and tut tut tut as only they can. I don’t think they would listen if I told them that white goes with everything.
Looking stylish was never something I ever had to worry too much about. I’ve done my fair share of television work, but there’s always makeup artists and stylists milling around the studio making sure everybody looks great before they go onscreen. Those cameras are expensive, so they don’t want anybody breaking them.
But seriously, think about it. Do you naturally associate cooks with how they look? You don’t see celebrity chefs mincing down the catwalk, do you, and Gordon Ramsay is more often than not taking his shirt off.
(Actually… I’ve just thought of something: Nigella always looks great, but let’s ignore that for now.)
However, my attitude to the idea of “style” recently changed. I was advised, by those in the know about these things, that if I was going to be promoting my book mix., I might want to get a bit of an image overhaul. I had a lot of book signings and interviews coming up, not to mention a few television appearances.
It’s strange when I think about it. It might be be the Northern Irish self-deprecation kicking in, but in many ways I still feel like James the farmer’s son from Portadown. But on the other hand, I know that if you have a product to sell, you have to play the game. And if that game involves getting some fancy clothes and a new haircut, well…
who am I to argue?
This should all explain why I have recently employed my… ahem…
Her name is Danièle and she has been a tremendous help. I’m always keen to learn new things, to have my assumptions challenged, to break any bad habits that I have allowed myself to fall into. Danièle is great at that. Previously, I would have been quite cynical about the notion of dressing to impress, but I’m coming to the conclusion that it has to be done. Put it this way: try going into a bank to ask for a loan wearing scaffy jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of duffed up trainers, and see what kind of response you get. Now do the same wearing a crisp suit and a pair of newly polished shoes.
Sadly, we do live in a world where, to invert the famous advert, image is everything. In my line of work, you sometimes have to buy into it, as false as it may be.
For example, I use photography to make my recipes look as mouth watering as possible. If my website had a few pictures of some greasy vol au vents on paper plates, would people take me seriously? I think not.
Similarly, would people like it if I turned up to book signings or magazine interviews in my sloppy joe jogging bottoms?
Danièle is great at all that. The psychology of clothes, for want of a less grand term. Not only the effect that what you’re wearing can have on other people, but what it can do for your own confidence and self-esteem.
She’s also brilliant at choosing what clothes complement your shape.
As I have a physique somewhat resembling a string bean, so I never really believed that clothes could look fantastic on me.
Danièle, however, has found some that can. Believe me, it’s not just women that can wear power suits.
The whole experience has been a real learning curve for me. Not just in the sense that I have a newfound respect for those who work in the clothes industry, but also it has hit home just how serious this whole project is becoming. I have been taught to appreciate how every little part of the jigsaw, no matter how small, is integral: the marketing, the writing, the publishing, the photography, the interviews, the glad-handing, the freebies, the… at the end of the day, it all helps to sell books.