Nigella Lawson admits taking cocaine and using cannabis
Cook tells court she has taken drugs, but idea she's habitual user is 'ridiculous'
NIGELLA LAWSON has told a court she has used cocaine on seven occasions and smoked cannabis in the past. But the idea that she is a habitual user or an addict is "ridiculous".
Appearing at Isleworth Crown Court today at the trial of two personal assistants accused of defrauding Lawson and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi, the celebrity cook said she had taken cocaine on six occasions when her late husband John Diamond was suffering from cancer. He used the drug as an "escape" when he discovered he was suffering from the disease and Lawson said she had joined him on several occasions, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Lawson told the court she had taken cocaine again in July 2010, when a friend offered her the Class A drug. "I was having a very, very difficult time; I felt subjugated to intimate terrorism by Mr Saatchi," she said. Lawson also admitted smoking cannabis, but said she has now given up. At times, she had smoked the drug in front of her children, she told the court.
Lawson also spoke about the incident in the summer in which Saatchi was pictured with his hand around her throat outside Scott's restaurant in London, the Telegraph says. She said her ex-husband grabbed her by the throat when she made a comment about wanting grandchildren after seeing a young child go past. "I am the only person you should be concerned with, I am the only person that should give you pleasure," she alleges her husband told her.
Earlier, Lawson told the court she had been "put on trial" over false allegations that she used drugs on a daily basis during her ten-year marriage to Saatchi. Her ex-husband had also threatened to "destroy" her, she told a London court.
"I have been put on trial here where I am called to answer, and glad to answer the allegations [of drug use], and the world's press, and it comes after a long summer of bullying and abuse," she told the court.
Lawson admitted she had been reluctant at first to give evidence in the trial of Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo who are accused of fraudulent credit card spending totalling £685,000. Describing Saatchi's reaction to her reluctance she told the court: "He had said to me if I didn't get back to him and clear his name he would destroy me," the Telegraph reports.
Struggling to keep her composure as she gave evidence, Lawson spoke of the public breakdown of her marriage to Saatchi and told the court that he had "menaced" her and "bullied" her in an attempt to force her to return to him and to shift the blame for their infamous row in a restaurant onto her, the paper says.
Lawson told the court that following the "awful incident at Scotts (restaurant)" false allegations of drug use began circulating on a "PR blog". The allegations on the blog were "dedicated to salvaging Mr Saatchi's reputation and destroying mine".
Cross-examined by Anthony Metzer QC, representing Elisabetta Grillo, Lawson said Grillo was "not particularly hard-working" towards the end of her employment in the Saatchi-Lawson household and spent a great deal of time on Facebook. But Lawson told the court that Grillo had been a "rock" when her first husband, the journalist John Diamond, was terminally ill with cancer.
"Sometimes I had to rush to hospital, she would stand in," Lawson told the court. "She was my rock. I will never forget what she did for my family."
The trial continues
Nigella Lawson: will drug allegations kill US TV career? 28/11/13
NIGELLA LAWSON'S chances of conquering the lucrative US market are in danger of "collapsing like a bad souffle", the Daily Mail says.
The paper quotes an unnamed source linked to her US cookery show, The Taste, who says producers are "debating whether to invite her back" for a third series in the wake of allegations made in a London court that she used drugs including cocaine on a daily basis for a decade. "We will wait to see the fallout from the court case and if there are further allegations of drug use," the source said.
Lawson, who is reportedly paid more than $200,000 per episode, is a "rising star" in the US, the paper says.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Allison Pearson, says evidence given to a London court by lawyers acting for Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo – the former personal assistants to Lawson and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi who are accused of credit card fraud – could continue to prove "deeply embarrassing" for the celebrity cook. "Attempts to preserve the hugely valuable global Nigella brand, the potency of which went into overdrive after Saatchi was pictured with his hand round her throat, seem to be unravelling," she says.
Lawson's legal representative has described the allegations of drug use as "scurrilous" and completely untrue. But Pearson points out that Twitter is full of jokes about "Higella" and her generous use of "icing sugar". There have been sly references on social media to the Domestic Goddesses' celebrated recipe for ham in Coke.
Writes Pearson: "Fans will be hoping that Nigella, the most admired and envied woman of my generation, has an explanation for the grim allegations made by the Grillo sisters."
The Independent's Simon Kelner says the "public meltdown" of the Lawson-Saatchi marriage was "unpalatable" and its aftermath equally so. He adds: "There is something hugely dismaying - not to mention distasteful - about a couple as clever and interesting as Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson being involved in such a public spat, even if the dirt-chucking has been almost exclusively going in one direction".
The divorce and its aftermath is "a sorry old tale of our times, involving armies of lawyers, advisers, paparazzi and tabloid journalists, compromising friends and family, and feeding the base, prurient instincts of a public happy to revel in a gilded couple's agony because it takes their minds off their own troubles," writes Kelner. "It all leaves a shocking taste in my mouth."
The trial of Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo continues.
Nigella Lawson 'off her head' on drugs, court hears
NIGELLA LAWSON will be the star witness during the trial of two former assistants who have accused her of a daily drugs habit.
A court was told yesterday that the TV chef took cocaine, cannabis and prescription pills every day for a decade, but kept her "guilty secret" hidden from her then husband Charles Saatchi.
Saatchi - who was divorced by Lawson in July after pictures emerged in which he had his hands around her neck - will also appear as a witness during the trial at Isleworth Crown Court. He has accused her of being a "habitual criminal" who used cocaine in their home on a "daily basis".
Both Lawson and Saatchi will be cross-examined about the alleged drug use during the trial - although neither is facing any charges. Lawson's legal representatives yesterday described the drug allegations as "totally scurrilous" and untrue, the Daily Telegraph reports.
The accusations surfaced after Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, two of Lawson's former assistants, were charged with defrauding Saatchi of more than £300,000 to spend on holidays, designer handbags and other items.
They say that Lawson made a deal with them, allowing them to use Saatchi's company credit card if they kept quiet about her drug use.
The sisters, who worked for the couple for a decade, made an application to use the "verbal understanding" over Lawson's alleged drug use as part of their defence.
A judge ruled yesterday that the "bad character" claims can be used in court, meaning the celebrity cook can be cross-examined about them when she gives evidence in the case.
The court was told that Saatchi had sent his ex-wife an email in which he said he believed "every word" of the sisters' claims. Saatchi's email adds that he thought Lawson had failed to keep a check on the sisters' spending because she was "off her head" on drugs.
The sisters were arrested in August 2012 after Saatchi became aware of the extent of their spending. Jane Carpenter, for the prosecution, said: "This is a totally scurrilous account which has been raised by the defence, and the timing is no coincidence at all."
She said that despite being arrested more than a year ago and charged in March, the sisters only made the drug allegations to the court earlier this month.
Lawson took to Twitter this morning to thank her followers, offering “the perfect recipe to show thanks for all your support & to those who hashtag #teamNigella."
Nigella Lawson breaks Twitter silence after Saatchi divorce
NIGELLA LAWSON has "broken her silence" following her divorce from Charles Saatchi – not by commenting on her split from the millionaire adman turned art collector, but by tweeting a picture of a cake.
The celebrity cook maintained a stoic silence after photographs of an altercation at a London fish restaurant between her and her former husband were published by British newspapers in June. Now, two months after she was pictured being throttled by the high-profile art collector, she has tweeted a photograph of a slice of sponge cake.
"Yum: settling down to The Great British Bake Off with a slice of this blackcurrant Victoria sponge," wrote Lawson in a reference to the popular BBC2 programme which began a news series on Monday night.
— Nigella Lawson (@Nigella_Lawson) August 20, 2013
The Daily Mail notes that Lawson "made no reference to the high-profile dispute, nor to her impending divorce [she's got her decree nisi and is awaiting the decree absolute] from her art-collecting billionaire husband."
Nigella Lawson 'illegal acts' claim by Saatchi's daughter
THEIR divorce was finalised without a hitch, but the media battle between Charles Saatchi and his former wife, Nigella Lawson, is growing increasingly messy.
The millionaire art collector has been accused of using his 18-year-old daughter Phoebe – his daughter with second wife Kay Hartenstein - to smear the celebrity cook in the press. The allegations stem from Saatchi's decision to allow the teenager to read a statement to a Daily Mail reporter accusing her stepmother of abandoning her and behaving "in a very cold-hearted way".
Now the Mail is reporting that Saatchi also allowed Phoebe to make further claims to a Sunday newspaper that the TV chef had taken part in "illegal acts". The unsubstantiated claims, which were not published, are "an apparent bid to smear her [Lawson's] wholesome reputation", the Mail says.
Meanwhile, The Mail on Sunday reports that Saatchi threatened to kill himself in one of a series of "harassing" messages he sent to Lawson after the couple were granted a decree nisi in the High Court on 31 July. The messages show "the depths of despair – some friends say madness – into which Mr Saatchi has sunk," the paper says.
Lawson had resolutely refused to answer any of Saatchi's daily calls or emails since photographs emerged showing him gripping her throat at a London restaurant. But the suggestion he might attempt suicide – backed up by a text from Phoebe saying she was concerned about her father's erratic behaviour - forced her to relent.
Lawson called Saatchi twice. The first conversation was described by friends as "quite sweet"; the second as "more difficult".
In her statement to the Daily Mail, Phoebe said her stepmother had not spoken to her since the publication of the photographs and had behaved in "a very cold-hearted way".
"She has been my mother since I was seven or eight and has just abandoned me," Phoebe said. "That's it."
Nigella & Saatchi: 'rush to book table' comes from fishy source
A SPOKESMAN for Scott’s, the celebrated seafood restaurant in Mayfair where Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson were snapped in THAT photograph only five short weeks ago, has refused to comment on press reports that diners “are rushing to book” the very table where the 70-year-old ad man apparently assaulted his wife and received a police caution – and now a divorce - as a result.
But the spokesman did confirm for The Week that – as is the procedure at almost every restaurant with outside tables – it’s impossible to book one anyway.
Regular customers may request an outside table but they are never reservable. Not by regulars, who include such luminaries as Madonna and Shakira as well as Saatchi, and certainly not by the sort of hoi-polloi (the spokesman didn’t say that) who would want to be photographed at a table now associated with a miserable domestic spat and ensuing quickie divorce.
As we reported yesterday, Nigella Lawson was granted a decree nisi on Wednesday in just 70 seconds. She can apply for a decree absolute in six week’s time, if she wishes, which would leave her free to marry again.
According to the Evening Standard, for whom Charles Saatchi still writes a Naked Eye column, a “source” at Scott’s said: “Dozens of couples have contacted Scott’s in Mayfair to secure the spot where Charles Saatchi grabbed the TV chef by the throat.”
“People are quite embarrassed to ask but it seems they want to get their picture taken at the spot where it all happened.”
Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi get quickie divorce
TV CHEF Nigella Lawson ended her marriage to millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi in London’s High Court today.
After 10 years of marriage, the couple were granted a decree nisi before District Judge Aitken in 70 seconds , reports the Daily Mail.
The couple’s ‘quickie’ divorce was heard at 10.30am today. Neither Lawson nor Saatchi attended the court in person.
Despite a public statement from Saatchi last month in which he said he intended to divorce Lawson, she was is the applicant. According to the court paperwork, the couple are divorcing on the grounds of Saatchi’s “continuing unreasonable behaviour”. The couple separated after Saatchi was pictured in a Sunday newspaper holding his wife by the throat.
The pair married in 2003, two years after the death of Nigella’s first husband, journalist John Diamond. They are said to be jointly worth an estimated £190m, and their home in Chelsea is valued at £12m.
According to the Mail, Lawson was still willing to reconcile, while Saatchi was angered in part at her ‘failure’ to defend him publicly for the alleged choking incident. He is said to have claimed that Lawson had also put her hands round his throat, in private.
The divorce has been arranged by Lawson’s cousin, the eminent solicitor Fiona Shackleton, dubbed the Steel Magnolia for her style and determination. The couple are understood to have signed a pre-nuptial agreement.
Saatchi dealt directly with Shackleton without his own legal representation. The Mail speculates that this was because of his anxiety that his art collection should not be split up.
‘Domestic Goddess’ Lawson has moved out of the couple’s home and is sharing a flat in central London with her son Bruno. She will soon be heading to Los Angeles to film a new series of her US TV show The Taste.
The couple will have to wait another six weeks before they receive a decree absolute.
Lawson and Saatchi divorce to be 'swift and amicable'
TV CHEF Nigella Lawson and her art collector husband Charles Saatchi will be divorced within weeks after agreeing not to make a financial claims against each other.
A settlement has already been negotiated through Lawson's cousin and well-known divorce lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, who has represented Prince Charles and celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney and Madonna in their high-profile splits.
In a joint statement the couple said they wanted to bring the matter to a "swift and amicable" conclusion and that the divorce would proceed on an "undefended basis". The decree nisi will be pronounced on 31 July and the divorce could be finalised by mid-September.
The Daily Mail reports that the swift agreement means the couple will "avoid airing their dirty laundry in public" as their ten-year marriage comes to an end.
Between them the couple are thought to be worth around £150m. Saatchi has a fortune of around £130m thanks to his advertising career and art collection, while Lawson has made £20m through her work as a TV chef and author.
The Times suggests that the couple had signed a pre-nuptual agreement. Divorce lawyer Mark Harper told the paper that there "usually" was such a contract in place when "substantial assets" were involved.
According to The Sun, the agreement is good news for Saatchi because it means that Lawson "will not force him to sell off his collection of weird modern art".
The couple split last month after the Sunday People published pictures of Saatchi grabbing Lawson by the throat and pinching her nose as they argued outside Scott's restaurant in Mayfair.
Saatchi tried to brush off the altercation as a "playful tiff" but later accepted a police caution for assault. Lawson was seen moving out of their £14m Chelsea home on the day the pictures were published.
Lawson made no comment after the incident, but discovered that Saatchi wanted a divorce only when he made a statement in another Sunday newspaper claiming that he had decided to end the marriage as his wife had failed to support him after the pictures were published.
Nigella Lawson 'consults Paul McCartney's divorce lawyer'
TV CHEF Nigella Lawson is reported to have consulted Fiona Shackleton, the divorce lawyer who successfully acted for Paul McCartney and famously got a glass of water thrown at her by Heather Mills when the former Beatle's wife lost her case for a massive payout. Instead of the £125m Mills was seeking, the judge awarded her only £24.3m.
The Sun claims Lawson went to Baroness Shackleton shortly after her millionaire art collector husband Charles Saatchi revealed to the Mail on Sunday that he was seeking a divorce.
Shackleton, 57, was an obvious first port of call. Not only does she have a dazzling reputation – she also represented Prince Charles in his divorce from Diana and Madonna when she broke up with Guy Ritchie - but she's also Nigella Lawson's cousin.
The Sun quotes a source saying: "Nigella never wanted it to come to this — but Fiona has been a rock of support and she is glad to have her on her side.
"Nigella is soft so she needs someone strong representing her — and they don't come any tougher than Fiona." They went on: "Charles must be quaking in his boots."
The Daily Mirror says it remains unclear on what grounds Saatchi plans to divorce Lawson. The paper quotes friends saying she has not spoken to him since he told her to leave their home in Chelsea following a row over the publication of photos showing him holding her throat as they sat at a table outside Scott's restaurant in Mayfair.
As The Week reported yesterday, Lawson and Saatchi's joint assets are estimated at around £150m and it understood that they did not have a pre-nuptial agreement. If Shackleton is retained, then under the current rules she can be expected to fight for her client to receive half.
FOR a man who has spent his life actively avoiding the media spotlight, the latest twist in Charles Saatchi's unravelling marriage was distinctly odd.
The multi-millionaire art collector chose to inform his wife, celebrity cook Nigella Lawson, that he was divorcing her not in person, or through his lawyer – but in an article published in a Sunday newspaper. Saatchi, 70, insisted he had resorted to breaking the news to 53-year-old Lawson via a statement published in the Mail on Sunday because the couple are "no longer talking".
The Sunday Mail would have been grateful for its weekend exclusive, but its sister paper the Daily Mail didn't extend the good will today, describing Saatchi's statement as "a final, crushing act of emotional control". Lawson was left "stunned and humiliated" by the article, the paper says, because she was hoping to try to save her 10-year marriage when she returned from filming her TV series, The Taste, in the US.
The Daily Mail is also incredulous that Saatchi's statement appeared to blame his wife for the end of their marriage, despite the publication last month of photographs showing him gripping her throat and pinching her nose outside a London restaurant.
Addressing the pictures in the statement, Saatchi says: "I must stress again my actions were not violent. We are instinctively tactile people." He goes on to accuse Lawson of holding him by the throat during arguments at their London home.
The former advertising guru says he made his "heartbreaking" decision to divorce the 'Domestic Goddess' because she did not defend him in public against allegations that he had assaulted her. It's an odd claim given that he accepted a police caution for assault on 17 June.
In the court of public opinion, where Saatchi has already been tried and found guilty, his decision to let his wife read about their divorce in a newspaper further inflamed opinions. Former Tory MP Louise Mensch tweeted that it was "funny" that the collector had "pretensions to being a gentleman" when he was really an "oikish candidate for a horse-whipping".
Labour MP Diane Abbot also took to Twitter to ask, "What kind of man lets his wife know that he is divorcing her via an announcement in the Mail?". Meanwhile, blogger FleetStreetFox wrote that Saatchi would "rather get divorced than apologise to his wife for throttling her".
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, Saatchi's decision to seek a divorce is certain to unleash an epic legal battle over the couple's substantial assets, the Daily Mail says. They are estimated at around £150 million, and include their £12 million home in Chelsea.
Saatchi: 'I was wiping Nigella's nose, not pinching it'
CHARLES SAATCHI says he was trying to remove "a bit of snot" from his wife's nose when the couple were pictured arguing at a London restaurant earlier this month.
The multi-millionaire art collector has been accused of twisting Nigella Lawson's nose and putting a finger in her nostril during the row at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair in which he also grabbed her by the throat. Saatchi subsequently accepted a police caution for the incident which he initially dismissed as a "playful tiff".
He waded back into the affair yesterday telling the London Evening Standard – the paper he continues to write for as an art columnist – that he was simply wiping his wife's nose.
"Even domestic goddesses sometimes have a bit of snot in their nose," he said. "I was trying to fish it out".
Lawson and Saatchi are believed not to have spoken to each other since photographs of the argument were published in the Sunday People earlier this month.
According to friends of the celebrity cook, she intends to escape the spotlight on her marriage by spending more time in America, bringing forward plans to fly to Los Angeles at the end of the summer to film a second series of her US TV show The Taste.
"Going to America may give Nigella the space from her husband to help find a way to repairing the damage that has been done," a Los Angeles TV source told the Standard. "After all that has happened in the past couple of weeks, the States may be her best way of finding the privacy she needs."
Meanwhile, the Domestic Goddess' fans have found a suitable way to express solidarity for their heroine: cooking her recipes. The Daily Telegraph says "people the world over now cooking her recipes to demonstrate their support."
The paper cites Ruth Brown, a London PR as an example. "In small act of support for Nigella, I'm using her recipe for Eton Mess tonight," tweeted Brown. Chef Hester Pit said: "She's had a tough week. As moral support to Nigella Lawson, I put her tarragon chicken on the menu today. May the force be with you Nigella! Take care."
Nigella Lawson: 'pale, drawn' chef appears without her ring
NIGELLA LAWSON looked "pale and drawn" and was not wearing her wedding ring, when she made her first public appearance since beating a hasty retreat from the London home she shares with her millionaire art collector husband Charles Saatchi.
Meanwhile, the debate ignited by recent photographs showing Saatchi grabbing his wife's throat continues to rage, with deputy PM Nick Clegg being widely criticised for his response to the incident on his Call Clegg programme on LBC Radio.
The bestselling cookery writer, who is staying in a £10,000-a-week flat in London's Mayfair, was photographed yesterday having an intense phone conversation in the street. The Sun said the absence of her wedding ring was "notable" and the 53-year-old celebrity chef "appeared to have lost weight".
Saatchi accepted a police caution on Monday, despite describing the altercation with his wife as a "playful tiff".
Asked during the radio phone-in about the photographs of Saatchi and Lawson that sparked the furore, Clegg said he was unable to comment on them because he did not know "whether that was just a fleeting thing".
He was then asked what he would have done if he had witnessed the altercation. "What a difficult question," he responded. "I find it so difficult to imagine…so you see a couple…I mean, I don't know what happened. I'm like you, I don't know what happened."
His response drew a sharp rebuke from Sarah Wollaston, the Tory MP for Totnes, who told the Daily Telegraph: "So just don't 'call Clegg' if your partner likes to grab you by the throat to emphasise a point."
The Labour MP Diana Johnson was also critical, tweeting that Clegg's comment that Nigella Lawson was the victim of "fleeting" domestic violence was at odds with Saatchi's decision to accept a caution for assault. Johnson has demanded a parliamentary debate about whether the government takes domestic violence seriously in the wake of Clegg's on-air comments.
MILLIONAIRE art collector Charles Saatchi has accepted a police caution for assault after he was photographed gripping his wife, TV chef Nigella Lawson, by the throat during an argument.
Saatchi voluntarily attended a London police station on Monday afternoon where he admitted the assault, a day after the pictures were published in the Sunday People newspaper and Lawson was seen leaving the couple's west London home with her son.
The images, taken while the couple ate at a Mayfair restaurant, prompted a storm of debate over domestic abuse, and media ethics.
But before being cautioned, Saatchi attempted to play down the incident. The 70-year-old co-founder of the Saatchi & Saatchi ad agency passed off the row as a "playful tiff" and claimed the couple had made up by the time they got home.
He told the Evening Standard, for whom he writes a regular column, that the photographs were taken during an "intense debate" with his wife, but he admitted: "I held Nigella's neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasise my point."
He accepted that the images were "horrific" but claimed they were misleading. "There was no grip," he said. "Nigella's tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt."
Saatchi also said it was his idea for Lawson to move out until the "dust settles". Her spokeswoman simply said: "I can clarify that she has left the family home with her children."
By agreeing to the caution Saatchi has admitted assault, explains The Times. "If the suspect does not agree to be cautioned, he or she can be arrested and charged," adds the paper. "It is not a criminal conviction, but it could be used as evidence of bad character in court."
Saatchi's comments have also come in for criticism from domestic abuse charities. A spokeswoman for Eaves told The Guardian: "This is not a 'row', it is not a 'tiff', it is an incidence of domestic violence. There is an unfortunate myth that domestic violence only happens to a certain type of person... But it happens in every social class, and in every profession."
Will 'Nigella attack' change our views of domestic abuse?
PICTURES showing TV chef Nigella Lawson apparently being attacked at a London restaurant by her husband Charles Saatchi have prompted debates on domestic abuse and whether onlookers – including the photographer – should have helped her.
The images, in which the millionaire art collector can be seen with his hand around his wife's throat, were taken outside Scott's restaurant in Mayfair and published in the Sunday People.
The couple have refused to comment and yesterday left their London home in separate taxis. Police are reported to be investigating the incident.
The photographs were taken through olive trees and shrubs that screen the terrace at the restaurant, said to be a favourite of the couple. As The Guardian said, many responding on social media were shocked that "people looked on and took photographs without making any attempt to intervene or call the police".
Writing for the New Statesman, Sarah Ditum says: "The reporting makes me very unhappy. It's the nature of these images that disturbs me, both how they were obtained and how they were released... There is no sign in the attached copy that the photographer made any effort to ensure Lawson's safety before clicking the trigger... This is not OK... in that situation it's not good enough to observe alone."
Others agreed, and the Daily Mail notes: "Even for a couple whose relationship is said to be volatile, the pictures are shocking... It is not the first time the couple have been seen arguing publicly, but the first that has apparently involved him manhandling her."
The fact that the woman in question is so well-known could alter perceptions of domestic abuse, says Anna Maxted in the Daily Telegraph. "We don't believe cultured, middle-class men are violent to their partners, or that successful, confident, fabulous women suffer it," she writes.
"Perhaps the sight of Nigella Lawson, frozen in fear, as her husband apparently chokes her, will end the curiously pervasive myth that domestic violence is just a teeny bit linked to the victim's behaviour – that a woman can be so irritating or pathetic that she, as the saying goes, deserves a slap."
Nigella Lawson flirts her way through US television debut
NIGELLA LAWSON used all of her "feminine charms" to begin an assault on the hearts and minds of America's cooks last night as she made her US debut on a new ABC cooking programme, The Taste.
The 53-year-old "looked incredible" in a low-cut red dress, says the Daily Mail's Louise Saunders, as she and her fellow panellists, the irascible New York chef Anthony Bourdain, San Diego restaurateur Brian Malarkey and French chef and author Ludo Lefebvre, critiqued dishes made by contestants by blind taste-testing a single spoonful.
The winner of the reality show - which has been described as a culinary version of the singing competition The Voice - will get $100,000 and a new car.
Lawson has made herself "incredibly svelte for American audiences," writes Rachel Ray in the Daily Telegraph. She has positioned herself as the show's "domestic goddess" who defends home cooks and provides a natural counterpoint to the gruff Bourdain, who is best-known for his tell-all book Kitchen Confidential. True to form, Lawson repeatedly used the word "comforting", says Ray.
Lawson and Bourdain are the programme's real stars, says The Guardian's Emma Keller. She is its "siren in a red dress", he is its "satyr". "He's a sexier, darker version of Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsay," writes Keller, or, as Lawson put it in one of several memorable lines from last night, "He's the Mick Jagger of food".
British celebrity chefs have had mixed experiences in the US in recent times. Jamie Oliver's show Food Revolutions turned him into a "national hate figure" in 2010 when he tried to lecture Americans about their diet. Gordon Ramsay has been rather more successful and still hosts four cooking shows on the Fox network.
The Guardian's Keller says Nigella Lawson is perhaps an unusual choice as a judge on a show that is only concerned with taste, because she's a cook who "prides herself on the texture and presentation of her food".
Still, Lawson seems to have enjoyed the experience. "I needed that loving spoonful," she tweeted after the show went to air last night.
Nigella's 'Nigellissima' leaves critics reaching for the sick bag
NIGELLA LAWSON sashayed back onto our screens last night with a new Italian-themed cooking show, Nigellissima, inspired by her gap year spent as a chambermaid in Florence. But artsy soft focus and an "oozing" host did not stop some viewers feeling queasy about the food.
Italy might be Nigella's "spiritual home" but the dishes on her show were less than Italian, complained critics. Nigel Farndale in The Daily Telegraph called it "Italianate cooking", in the same way that "British 19th-century garden design influenced by the Italians was said to be 'Italianate'".
He said the dishes - which included a children's 'meatzza' (a mixture between meatballs and a pizza) and a decidedly un-Italian cheesecake – were a reminder that "her originality is more in the presentation of dishes than in the combination of flavours they represent".
Jack Sharp, from On the Box, said the 'meatzza' was so "grotesquely indulgent” it could have been "conceived by a catastrophically spliffed-up stoner in a bedsit somewhere". With its congealed meat base, it was more like something you would expect to find on a menu "at a low-grade kebab takeaway next to 'Chicken Parmo' and 'The Big Dipper'," he moaned.
"But it goes down surprisingly well with Nigella's friends at what appears to be some kind of elaborate eating ritual, where everything is consumed in artsy soft focus,” added Sharp.
Jane Simon in the Daily Mirror said Nigella's pasta sauce made her want to heave. "We love Nigella but her recipes here look absolutely disgusting. And I don't mean disgusting in a rustic, Italian kind of way. I mean disgusting as in, 'Oh dear, all I've got in the fridge is a tin of chopped tomatoes and some eggs. Do you think I could just chuck them together and then eat them straight out of the pan?'"
Alex Hardy of The Times compared Nigella to "a sexy version of the Very Hungry Caterpillar", but said the food was at times a "sensory and artery overload".
"The feast may have made the kiddies giggle, but it basically resembled a Man v Food burger naked of its bread, followed by a load of Nutella. I'm pretty sure that with this menu at a real-life children's do, the smiles would have been followed swiftly with - here's a neologism for Nigella - a puke-rescendo."
Keith Watson at the Metro did not have the same concerns, but mainly because he wasn't paying attention to the food. "Our heroine coquettishly recalling her youth as a hotel chambermaid in Florence - uniform, dusters, down boy - while sipping a glass of Prosecco on a sun-kissed balcony. Really, after that little lot was downloaded into the hard drive, who could concentrate on cheesecake?"
Watson, who is convinced Nigella must be an avatar of a domestic goddess ("she doesn't cook, she oozes"), added: "She never even makes a mess. Never a splash of cream or naughty tomato threatening her black cocktail frock. It doesn't matter, it's a perfect half hour of gastronomic porn. The food? Oh yeah, it looked lovely. Italian or something."
Chelsea neighbours shocked by ‘naked chef’ Nigella
Television chef Nigella Lawson and her art collector husband Charles Saatchi have spent a fortune transforming a former warehouse in Chelsea into their new home – but they have apparently overlooked one crucial matter during the lengthy renovation works.
According to Daily Mail gossip columnist Richard Kay, the couple have shunned the bourgeois notion of frosted glass or even a door to the luxurious new bathroom that opens onto an upper-floor 'loggia'. As a result, their neighbours are able to see the couple wandering naked in and out of the bathroom.
"It isn't a case of deliberately looking in," one peeper told the Mail, "but there is a view into the bathroom and anyone glancing in the direction of the loggia from nearby can glimpse what’s going on."
Nigella, herself a former newspaper journalist, apparently "hooted with laughter" when told by Kay of her neighbours' sightings. "I had no idea we were overlooked," she said. "Obviously, I will investigate."
It looks like a bathroom door is the only option - unless Nigella resorts to wearing the black burkini she famously used to hide her figure on Bondi Beach earlier this year. ·