Young Food Writer of the Year Competition 2020 – Winners Announced

The Guild of Food Writers and The Week Junior are delighted to announce the winners of the Guild’s Young Food Writer of the Year competition. This is the second year that the Guild has partnered with The Week Junior and Young Food Writer has gone from strength to strength with a record number of entries.

Young and budding food writers were tasked with writing a piece under the theme ‘Food and Heroes’ for a chance to win the competition. Entrants were split into three age categories (10 and under, 11 to 14, and 15 to 18) and were encouraged to capture one of their favourite food experiences on the page.


Winners and Runners-up:

10 years old and under

Joint Winner: John Yi Fusco, aged 6 from Dumfries and Galloway

Judges’ comments: ‘A memorable ode to the noodle, packed with love for their grandfather.’

 ‘Loved his noodle bridge and loooooooong noodles – and it was touching, too.’

‘Love the use of imagery and noodles as so many things like hugs and bridges.’

‘It’s hard to believe that John is 6, his writing is so atmospheric! I really felt I was in China.’

‘John’s imagination shines through in his writing.’


Joint Winner: Honey Tsamplakos, aged 10 from Surrey.

Judges’ comments: ‘Anyone who’s bold enough to call themselves the hero has some serious confidence. Quirky and funny, too.’

 ‘So simple but straight from the heart ‘

 ‘Such love in the smallest of gestures and I love the sibling one-upmanship of having one over on her brother.’


Highly Commended: Isla Marie Martin, aged 10 from Fife


11 to 14 years old

Winner: Lily de Kluyver, aged 12 from London

Judges’ comments: ‘A powerful piece by a talented writer who is wise beyond her years.’

‘Self-aware, confidently confessional and enlightening.’

‘Made me cry’

‘This is so beautifully and honestly written. It must have been hard to write but I love that Lily has brought across her relationship with food.’

‘Superlative writing, worthy of publication. Sensitive subject matter handled with both insight and aplomb. A bright future awaits.’

‘I found the honest clarity of Lily’s writing immensely moving.’


Highly Commended: Jake Reed, aged 12 from Lancashire and

Kiran Anand, aged 13 from Berkshire


15 to 18 years old

Winner: Lara Taberham, aged 15 from London

Judges’ comments: ‘Fascinating and evocative.’

‘A wonderfully evocative tribute to Mama Lee.’

 ‘I love that I was transported into Mama Lee’s kitchen to the magical ingredients that live there. I can taste that crab noodle and I want it now!’

 ‘A novel-worthy tale that lingers in the memory, so rich was the telling.’

‘Lara has the ability to transport the reader to another place.’


Highly Commended: Grace Noakes, aged 18 from Essex and

Marcy Goldfischer, aged 15 from London


To celebrate, the talented winners were invited to the first virtual tea party hosted by the Guild on Zoom. The children feasted on a variety of goodies including scones, tea and cake from tea hampers, which they received the day before. The winners were joined by lead judge, Karen Barnes, editorial director, delicious. magazine, Felicity Capon, editor The Week Junior and Ben Isaacs, Features Editor The Week Editor. An impromptu guest appearance from the children’s pets including a cat, a couple of dogs and a bird of prey set the call off to a fantastic start. 


Thanks go to our panel of judges (bestselling cook book author, celebrity MasterChef winner, actress and presenter Lisa Faulkner; Karen Barnes, editor of award-winning delicious. magazine; award-winning documentary maker, TV presenter and author Stefan Gates; food writer and Guild Vice-President  Felicity Cloake; TV producer, cookery book writer and Guild member Kalpna Woolf; Sherry Ashworth, award-winning author of children’s and young adult literature; cook, food writer, cookery teacher and Guild member Lorna Wing; Felicity Capon, editor of The Week Junior magazine; and Ben Isaacs, Features Editor of The Week Junior magazine); and to The Week Junior for helping the Guild focus young people on really engaging with food and thinking about how they write about it. 



From left to right: Karen Barnes, Sherry Ashworth and Felicity Capon

From left to right: Felicity Cloake, Lisa Faulkner and Stefan Gates

From left to right: Ben Isaacs, Lorna Wing and Kalpna Woolf


The Competition

The Young Food Writer of the Year competition (formerly Write It) was established in 2008. It is the only national food writing competition in the UK for children. It has seen prestigious names from the Guild’s membership judge entries from more than 1,350 aspiring food writers.


About The Week Junior

The Week Junior is an award-winning magazine which aims to make sense of the world for young people. Since its inception in 2015 it has grown from strength-to-strength to become a market leader in the UK, offering a blend of thoughtful, inspiring and trustworthy news and current affairs stories which inform, empower and entertain children up and down the country every week.


To read the winning and highly commended entries please click more below.


10 years old and under

Joint Winner: John Yi Fusco, aged 6 from Dumfries and Galloway

Humble Noodle

Noodles are in my imagination. They twist around my chopsticks telling tales of where I grew up. The noodle is humble, it doesn’t show off, noodles let other ingredients shine

Imagine a Noodle Bridge that could tell if someone was kind-hearted or not. If someone crossed the Noodle Bridge who wasn’t kind-hearted their biggest fears would rise up, hit the bridge and wobble them off. If someone stepped onto the Noodle Bridge who was kind-hearted they would get their wish come true. Their Wish would rise up into the sky showering them and others with joy and happiness.

My Food Hero is my Chinese Godfather, Lu BaBa. He is a kind man who serves other people by cooking. He owns a restaurant under our old apartment in Chengdu. After kindergarten he was always there with a ball of dough for me to play with. The ingredients from his restaurant were my toddler toys and when he cooked them they were my supper.

Cooking is Lu Baba’s language.

He doesn’t speak English but he uses food like words. Words that tell me how much he loves me. On my birthday each year he made me a bowl of hand-pulled noodles. Not just any noodles, looooooong noodles, one-meter long! Delicious Long-Life noodles with a lucky carrot coin carved around one noodle. Lu Baba’s noodles remind me of my happy days in China.

My Noodle spans the world: I hope I meet Lu BaBa again on that Bridge some day.


10 years old and under

Joint Winner: Honey Tsamplakos, aged 10 from Surrey.

Jam and Butter

Once upon a time there were 3 bears haha not really, this is a story about toast not porridge.

Let’s start with the hero of this story my brother. Rocco is 8 years old, loves his iPad, Cadbury cream eggs and has an autism diagnosis.

Basically autism causes problems with Rocco’s talking and communication, he finds it hard to have friends and play appropriately.

Rocco finds it hard when we don’t say his food in the right order.

Picture the scene:

Its a Monday morning, we are ready for school and I’m making Rocco’s breakfast

Me: “Rocco what would you like for Breakfast?”

Rocco: “Honey I want Toast, Jam and Butter”

Me: “Rocco do you want toast, butter and jam?”

Rocco: “no I don’t like that!”

I mean I didn’t know that toast, jam and butter was so different to toast, butter and jam.

To keep Rocco happy with his favourite meal of the day I :

Lightly toast his bread as he doesn’t like it too brown

Cut of the sides as he doesn’t like the crusts

Spread the right amount of butter

Put a big blob of his chosen jam

Cut it into 4 equal squares

Serve immediately

Thinking about it I guess I’m the hero really as he still doesn’t know that he’s eating butter and jam not jam and butter. Its not a big fancy meal and it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients but it is made with a humungous amount of love.


10 years old and under

Highly Commended: Isla Marie Martin, aged 10 from Fife


It was a sunny evening and my mum was cooking dinner. I came into the kitchen and asked ‘What are you making?’ but she said, ‘It’s a surprise’. So I left the room and shut the door behind me.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, mum was chopping and cutting, boiling and frying, magicking up an amazing dinner for all the family. Nobody knew what she was making, but we knew it was going to be delicious!

As she cooked she added in a few special ingredients. These included a handful of happiness, 2 cups of excitement, a pint of respectfulness, 1 litre of optimism, 7 tablespoons of enthusiasm, and last but not least – 30 grams of silliness! Awhile later she said: ‘It’s ready!’ so we all came in and sat down. It smelt so good! She gave us all a big bowl of mouth-watering, steaming, hot soup. We all ate the soup up. It was very tasty.

When we were all finished mum asked, ‘would you like to know what was in that soup?’ We all nodded. She said, ‘Well, this soup has happiness, excitement, respectfulness, optimism, enthusiasm and a little bit of silliness!’ We all were confused. Then she explained that if you take the first letter from each word it will spell…


It was filled with all the ingredients that a hero needs and we all became HEROES because the world needs more of them in times like these!


11 to 14 years old

Winner: Lily de Kluyver, aged 12 from London

Do you ever wonder how life would be without food? My name is Lily and life without food was my reality until only a short time ago. I have anorexia.

At first I started restricting food, then food became the enemy and I slowly started losing more and more weight as my body began to shut down. It went from something seemingly innocent and contained to something that has changed my life forever. I felt good when I was starving myself but that was the ugly lie that I was living. It’s not the truth. It didn’t kill me but it took away so much from me. It took my happiness, my health, the things I love to do and even my ability to walk when I want.

I remember when I went into hospital for the first time, it was like waking up from a nightmare. The hospital’s sterile white walls made me face the harsh reality that I was very sick, and that it was going to take a long time to get better.

My list of food heroes won’t include any Mary Berrys or Willy Wonkas. Some names worth mentioning are Mum, Dad, Tom, Lottie, Matilda, Exuma, Felix, Millie, Saskia, Yuki, Isaac , Bebe, my family, Dr Cini, Rena, Caroline, Chucks and the amazing nurses. They deserve halos above their glorious heads for helping me to keep on going even when I couldn’t, for finishing when full so that I could finish too, for the cards, for the calls and for making life as Normal as they could for me even when my life right now is anything but normal, but mostly for the constant love that radiates from being with them. Whether it’s Yuki and Felix playing wheelchair races with me, or Bebe teaching me Animal Crossing, or Exuma and Lottie with our constant dog talk or when Chucks would talk to me about Wellington the cow.

Food is a wonderful thing; it gives us health and strength and helps us connect with other people. My food heroes are the people who are helping me conquer this mountain every day.

Before, food for me tasted devilish, smelt sinister, felt like something to escape from and looked like it would ruin my life, but now I am learning that food tastes like something only Aunty Wendy could make taste better, smells like an exciting new thing to tantalise my tastebuds, feels like being merry and strong inside and looks like something that will save my life and bring me closer to the people I love.

The truth is eating food is scary and hard but through my parents and friends and phenomenal family, its getting easier and one day it will be easy as pie.

In short, thank you to all the people who I love with all my heart, thank you for not not only saving my life but for making it worth living.


11 to 14 years old

Highly Commended: Jake Reed, aged 12 from Lancashire

Fast Food Fight

Lunchtime may have been over, but the school kitchen was definitely not quiet. Burger Boy was prepared for anything, with his sesame seed armour and pair of relish blasters at the ready. Adrenalin flooded his body. “This should be easy” he thought confidently. For his trusty sidekick, Slider, it was a different matter. He was shaking with nerves so much that his bun helmet fell off with a clatter, echoing all around the kitchen.

Time was ticking fast as the battle approached. There was still no sign of Burger Boy’s arch enemy, Colonel Drumstick. For years, both had wanted to be at the Top of The Menu, the greatest honour for all food. So far, neither had received this reward, so it was all to fight for.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a French fry missile flew past Burger Boy’s head, which pierced a hole in his lettuce. Burger Boy dove behind the salt-shaker and yelled “Colonel, I know you’re there. Show yourself!”. Slider slid behind the egg timer, shivering like a jelly. After a moment, Colonel Drumstick appeared on the grill, with a fork in one hand, a spoon in the other and his Chicken Wing Commander by his side. “Come on then Burger, show me what ye got”. The fight had begun.

Quick as a flash, Burger Boy jumped out from behind the salt with his relish blasters in his hands and fired away. The Colonel waved his fork forward and screamed, “FIRE!”. French fry missiles bombarded the kitchen, breaking glass plates, smashing mugs and knocking pans off their hooks. Slider was still behind the egg timer but was now recovering. He saw his boss getting stuck in, took a deep breath and joined the battle. He tossed sliced cheese nets towards the Wing Commander – one hit the target; square in the eyes. Blinded, the Commander tripped and fell off the worktop into the waste bin, gone forever. Now it was two against one!

“Oh no, my blasters are out of ammo! I’ll fill them up real quick. Cover me Slider!” exclaimed Burger Boy. In that moment, the Colonel sent his final French fry missile directly at him. Slider saw it coming and jumped in front of his boss. The decisive shot hit him right in the patty. Ketchup spurted from the wound. “Why did you do that?” cried Burger Boy. “So that you can do this” whispered Slider, pressing a small, round object into Burger Boy’s hand. Burger Boy looked down – it was a grenade, but no ordinary grenade, a Tabasco grenade! With all his strength, he threw the explosive device. It burst at the Colonel’s feet, covering his breaded body in hot sauce. “Argghhh, it burns, it burns!” screamed the Colonel, before bursting into flames. Target destroyed!

The following lunchtime, burgers were finally at the Top, where they belonged. And Slider, being so brave in battle, was never again called a “wet lettuce”.


11 to 14 years old

Highly Commended: Kiran Anand, aged 13 from Berkshire

A refreshing evening breeze whispered through the trees. It tip-toed through the amalgam of vegetables and herbs of the kitchen garden, before ruffling the hair of the man sitting behind the rocket stove. His face was illuminated by a roaring fire, which girdled a large pot of chilli con carne. Aromas wafted through the garden, enticing neighbours of the small cul-de-sac, and blanketing the man in a thick duvet of chilli and tomato.

How much chilli did he put in again? Ah yes, 2 teaspoons of paprika but only 1 teaspoon of hot chilli powder. He didn’t want to burn anyone’s mouth off at the hospital! Hopefully all his efforts had condensed into the crimson sauce below him – this was one way the man could show the healthcare staff how grateful he was.

* * *

Padding through the double doors of the ward, a sigh deflated out of the doctor. What a busy day. Her shift was supposed to end at 3, but here she was at 6:45. Her stomach murmured. The doctor couldn’t even begin to imagine cooking at home. How could someone feel so tired yet hungry at the same time? She trudged towards the office door, before she fell asleep on the spot.

As soon as she opened the office door, the doctor was hit with a perfume of comfort. Chilli, oregano, cumin, paprika, it made her salivate. She was a lion who had not eaten for days – her exhausted eyes frantically buzzed around. Where was the smell coming from? Aha. Her eyes landed on a coffee table stacked with pyramids of containers, the lids painted with steam. What did they conceal?

She hastily picked up the topmost container and opened it. Warmth immediately seeped into the cracks of the doctor’s hands. Pillars of steam billowed up, revealing a hearty ladle of chilli con carne on a mountain of rice. Red kidney beans were dotted like jewels in the intensely meaty sauce, accompanied by little slivers of green peppers, so tender that they melted at the slightest touch of a tongue. Fireworks of fresh oregano and toasted cumin made her taste buds go on a conga line. The whole dish was laced with a smokiness that she had never experienced before.

Each spoonful travelled down her throat to her heart with warmth. Before long, she held a box that was licked clean.

The doctor never noticed that she had company in the office – a man was busy stacking more containers onto the coffee table.

“Thank you,” she told him. “It was delicious.”

The man beamed, and his smile was clear despite his face mask.

“First, I must thank you!” he said.

If I said the word ‘hero’ what would you picture first? A muscular figure in a glittery suit, face strewn with determination, maybe? And don’t forget about the superpowers...

Truth is, you have probably never seen anyone like that. Real heroes do exist amongst our community, so humble that they’re hidden in plain sight...


15 to 18 years old

Winner: Lara Taberham, aged 15 from London

Mama Lee, Cooking Hero

My grandma, Mama Lee, is my cooking hero. Throughout her life she has been surrounded by food; it’s like she has cooking in her DNA. Born in 1933 and growing up in World War Two Singapore, my grandma was raised single-handedly by her resilient mother – great grandma lost her husband to tetanus just as the war broke out. Money was scarce so it was a bold decision to spend two Singaporean dollars on pork and vegetables, borrow rice from a friend to make dumplings and sell them to their neighbours. Mama Lee sold illegal rice wine and bought dried prawns on her own in Aukung in Malaysia, across the Singapore Bridge border, after her mother was whipped by the occupying Japanese soldiers and told that she could not cross the bridge. Great-grandma hid the rice wine in bicycle inner tubes. All this was before Mama was ten. Mama remembers constantly being told to eat rice instead of porridge, as it was ‘more filling’. Finally, my great grandma managed to get a hawker stall outside Rex Theatre and Mama Lee was again enlisted to help cook – this time, sweet potato curry puffs.

My grandfather came over to the UK in 1959 and decided that London was a good place to call home, so Mama Lee joined him after a one-month long sailing from Singapore. They opened a cafe in Haringey and decided to have chop suey on the menu, but the best sellers were grilled pork chops, toad in the hole and rock cakes.

My grandparents then opened a Chinese provision shop in Kilburn, in 1970 – it was one of the first in the UK. Highlight of the week was fresh mackerel and live crabs on Saturdays. Overseas students loved stocking up on familiar Chinese ingredients and getting inspiration from Mama Lee on how to cook dishes that they missed back home; she was the food hero of many a student. My mum had to spend most days decanting huge sacks of bean sprouts into smaller individual half pound bags to sell for 15p. She had to go to a friend’s allotment to collect a regular supply of choy sum.

I have never been to Mama Lee’s house without being offered plates of food as soon as I enter. ‘I made you chicken rice, lah’ – words I always smile at hearing. Even when she calls, she asks traditionally if we have eaten yet. The entire Lee family has been blessed by the taste of her food. Everyone knows her signature dishes – Singapore laksa, Hainanese chicken rice and her special fried chicken. Even at her eightieth birthday party, her fried chicken was mentioned in the speeches. It truly is that good! I remember when I was little, sitting on the embedded lazy-Susan in the middle of the main family dining table and being spun around whilst Mama Lee cooked in the background.

For me, my favourite dish is chicken feet which are cooked in a rich broth with red dates, fresh raw peanuts, goji berries and ginseng. Mama would spend hours preparing this dish and would clean every foot scrupulously. I once recall how my brother was forced into the kitchen to help trim the nails off the chicken feet, with a pair of nail clippers. I love the fleshy plump chicken feet with the ‘melt in your mouth’ creamy skin. Nothing is more pleasurable than sharing a plate with my grandma spitting out the little bones and her seeing me enjoying the meal with her.

I thank my grandma for sharing her love of durian with me. Durian is the King of Fruits and is said to have the smell of rotting flesh; however, I love it as much as chicken feet. I have grown up with durian being readily available in the freezer, its smell not being half as pungent as some of the other ingredients in my grandma’s home, such as century eggs, dried scallops, belachan and sun-dried anchovies.

Even at the wise age of 87, Mama Lee still cooks for herself every day. Only last week, my mum and I got a call telling us to pick up a massive crab; we spent the entire evening shelling every last leg and adding it to soft egg noodles. As expected, it was delicious. I have learnt so many recipes from my Mama, enough to fill a whole cooking book, and I hope to continue learning more for as long as I possibly can.


15 to 18 years old

Highly Commended: Grace Noakes, aged 18 from Essex


In the first pupil-parent assembly after the lockdown was lifted, Katy Morgan took her place at the podium, cleared her throat, and addressed the audience with a smile:

“A lot of the time we only see the difference a hero makes when they aren’t there anymore. Or perhaps it’s taken times like these—distressing times, housebound times—for us to realise that these people were there all along. You and I, we clapped for our nurses, doctors, bin-men, shop keepers, you name it. So, I’m ready now, and I hope you are too, to applaud the underdog…the humble bag of flour.” There came an unexpected rumble of laughter from the audience.

“Except it’s not nearly so humble anymore, is it? It’s gloating, it’s proud, soldier-like on shelves holding dusty banners. And then it’s mocking—self-raising or all-purpose? Bread flour or pasta, wheat or hemp? Never did we mere mortals ever believe we’d have to stand in an aisle, weighing up the benefits of Canadian flour versus British, or do impressive mental maths—grams needed for banana bread divided by hours spent standing outside in the queue—to figure out whether a kilo bag is the right size.” Marjorie Miller and Keith Smith in the front row murmured in agreement, bellies already rumbling. Old Tony Attlee glanced at his watch and groaned. Still about an hour until afternoon tea.

“Because we value flour now in an absurdly serious way. It’s the pale thread that weaves every dish together. It makes a pie a pie with pastry; rough puff and shortcrust, filo, flaky, pork pies, mince pies, McDonald’s apple turnovers. What I’d do for a McDonald’s apple turnover right now…” Jeremy Malik considered grabbing one on the way home, then remembered the drive-through was still closed. Oh.

“It’s the primary ingredient in sourdough—gobbled up by a starter, baked crunchy, almost-burnt, slathered with salty butter. Pockets of air like sleeping-bags, warm and inviting. What about a brioche roll?” Ahhh, Brioche, the audience dreamed. “Wrapped around a barbequed sausage, softer by the second under a coating of ketchup, mustard, the rainbow smiles of caramelised onions.

“All our best memories involve flour.” People frowned, but Katy pushed on. “My nan making the Christmas cake, a sprinkle over the dried fruit, an accidental sift onto the granite, a dab on my nose. We laughed as feather-light snowflakes fell in a cloud of mixed spice, ginger, cinnamon, delicious.” Beth Little licked her lips, yearning for the festive season. “That first doughnut devoured going down the escalator of Liverpool Street Station; an edible pillow, slightly chewy, that tan-line around its middle—yeah, you know it—punctuated by a belly button oozing delights of the red and gloopy.”

“Stop it!” Bobby Wright shouted from the back, salivating at the chops like a dog.

Katy grinned. “And I can’t forget the pasty eaten on a bench overlooking Newquay beach, seagulls nattering overhead. Jealousy caused them to swoop and dive, pecking at the flaky crumbs at my feet.

“Why shouldn’t flour be my saviour, my deity? More and more people are converting. It’s not a religion that discriminates, either—oat flour, gluten-free, tapioca, potato, rice, almond”—Jenny Laurens whooped—"something for everyone in the baking department. You can go healthy or naughty, too, or be a maverick—go on, I dare you, make your own personal blend: Paul Hollywood’s crystal meth.” Susie Rogers suddenly wondered whether she’d put Bake Off on series link.

“Rest assured, we have our extremists, too: the secret agent who takes one bag more than they should, queuing twice, thrice, cackling in the car park. The fighters at the tills, the way every other Brit narrows their eyes, tutting, scoffing—can you believe him?

“Flour is our currency, now worth a whole lot more in our eyes. There’s a reason for that, and it’s a reason I don’t think we’ve ever devoted headspace to before. It binds us together like no other ingredient could ever have the capacity to, thickening our worries into something solid, something easier to work with. It smooths over the icky, sticky parts of our lives that we bung in the oven with our cakes and bakes and they sweeten, rise, become fluffy and moreish.”

Katy took a deep breath. “So value it, this little bag. Show it some love. It’s no ventilator, but everyday it’s saving us in a completely different way.”

As she walked off the stage, the audience did exactly as she asked, and clapped.


15 to 18 years old

Highly Commended: Marcy Goldfischer, aged 15 from London

How Nigella Lawson Helped Me During Quarantine

Normal life came to a sudden halt in March—from going school to seeing a film, or hugging my friends; every aspect of life before lockdown became a faint memory within an instant. Abruptly, my days consisted of lying in bed and watching TV, with no hope of seeing friends beyond a computer screen. Not only was I yearning for structure (I’d heard the news on TV:

‘GCSEs and A Levels to take place in May/June cancelled’, in two seconds wiping out everything I worked towards for a year and a half), but I was also worried about my family here and abroad, and the thousands of people around the world who were sick and even dying of COVID-19.

Starved for consolation and comfort, I absent-mindedly opened the cookbook I had received for my eleventh birthday, ‘Simply Nigella’. I have always loved the way Nigella teaches people not only how to prepare delicious food, but to embrace cooking and develop their own intuition, believing that “good ideas come unbidden, much as happiness does.” I also love the fact that she has never been professionally trained, openly admitting “[her] only qualification is as an eater.”

Flipping through the cookbook reminded me of the TV series-- Nigella breezily cooking her way through a selection of mouthwatering dishes. In my favourite episode she makes Korean Short ribs. We see her going to the butcher, selecting marbled beef, whisking up a glossy marinade, then simmering the rich stew in her deep, dutch oven. Reading through the cookbook, I felt the first glimmer of hope.

Over the years, I’ve cooked many of her recipes, even turning some of them into signature dishes of my own. A particular triumph was my riff on her Lemon Pavlova recipe, where I’ve swapped tangy curd for ruby pomegranate seeds and sunny orange segments. Nigella often references other people's recipes in her cookbooks, adapting them in her own way, inspiring me to do the same, giving me the confidence to embrace my creativity in the kitchen. Her passion for both cooking and eating is contagious. “Cooking should not be considered the domain of the expert,” she writes, encouragingly.

Newly inspired, and with time on my hands and captive eaters in my household, I embarked upon an ambitious lockdown cooking journey, setting myself the goal of making at least one of Nigella’s recipes each night for nine consecutive nights and calling it “Nine-gella.” From Italian pasta dishes to Greek pies with tangy feta and crisp filo pastry, the recipes I chose transported me and my “locked down” family around the world. I excitedly posted the pictures of all nine nights of cooking on Twitter in the hopes of having Nigella come across them.

Thanks to Nigella, I reconnected to my passion for cooking that I had pushed aside due to my hectic schedule as a Year 11 student. The challenge helped me cope with missing my friends and school, giving me a sense of purpose, and transporting me to a time when all we had to worry about was what to cook for dinner. I realized that lockdown wasn’t an unmitigated disaster – it helped me re-discover the things I love, and gave me a sense of accomplishment. The cherry on the cake was one night, when reading through the Twitter responses to my latest

“Nine-gella posting” to my utter delight and surprise, I received a response from Nigella herself: “Beautiful”, she commented. This     was beyond my wildest dreams – a personal message from my hero. Filled with joy, grinning ear to ear at my phone screen, I let out a loud whoop.