In Depth

Prue Leith: Who is the food writer set to replace Mary Berry?

'Cooking royalty' is also a novelist - who ran off with the husband of her mother's friend

Prue Leith

Prue Leith is tipped to replace Mary Berry on the Great British Bake Off when it relaunches on Channel 4 this year.

The 76-year old food writer, restaurateur, journalist, presenter and campaigner will join original judge Paul Hollywood, reports The Sun.

Sources tell the paper that "in cookery circles, [Leith's] practically royalty". They also claim Bake Off bosses see her as a "like for like" replacement for 81-year old Berry and believe viewers will warm to her because of their similar backgrounds.

From Paris au pair to Kensington restaurateur

Leith was born in South Africa but has spent most of her working life in London. She became interested in food while studying at the Paris-Sorbonne University and working as an au pair in the French capital, where she was fascinated with the daily quest for fresh bread and brioches.

In 1960, after moving to London and enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu cookery school, she developed her own catering business, Leith's Good Food, making lunches for businesses. By the age of 29, she had her own Michelin-starred restaurant, Leith's in Kensington.

Multiple honours

Leith's School of Food and Wine was founded in 1975to train amateur cooks and professional chefs. It saw the chef being Veuve Clicquot's businesswoman of the year in 1990 and the company reached a turnover of £15m before being sold. 

She also helped found the Prue Leith College (since renamed Prue Leith Chef's Academy) in South Africa, while her other accolades include an OBE in 1989 and a CBE in 2010.

Judging experience

Having worked on the BBC television programme Great British Menu since it launched in 2006, Leith has more than a decade of television experience as a judge.

She has also written a number of fiction and non-fiction books around the theme of cooking, including Leith's How to Cook, Leith's Cookery Bible and Leith's Techniques Bible. Her novels include the Food of Love trilogy, The Gardener and Sisters, in which fans spot autobiographical references.

Complicated love life 

In her biography, Relish, Leith she revealed how, for 13 years, she conducted a clandestine affair with Rayne Kruger, a writer who was married to her mother's close friend at the time. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Leith called the affair "practically incest".

Their relationship began when she was 21 and Kruger was 39, she wrote. They eventually married, spending 28 years as husband and wife, and had two children.

Kruger died in 2002, aged 80.

In October last year, she married retired clothes designer Johnny Playfair.

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