How I found my inner foodie: She couldn’t make a cup of coffee until she was 17, now Fay Ripley has her own food show and cookbooks
You almost expect Fay Ripley to talk in a blunt Mancunian accent like Jenny, her character in Cold Feet. Even in her Tesco ad family, with a husband who looks a bit like her Cold Feet husband John Thomson, she’s northern. But in real life her voice is a cosy Home Counties.
Fay and her co-stars were in their thirties when Cold Feet, the British answer to Friends, was at its height at the turn of the millennium. The show’s appeal continues today – people still say they’ve spent the day in bed with a cold and Cold Feet.
Of course, Fay, 45, is always asked if it will return, and when rumours of a reunion surfaced last year, the six stars got in touch with each other and decided they would do it, but only if writer and creator Mike Bullen were involved.
Masterchef: Fay Ripley in her family home in North London
‘People in the street ask me all the time. All the actors would do it, even though we may be getting to the point where it would be a really bad idea. A middle-aged version could be depressing.
As time goes on it’s getting less likely we’ll do it. Do those reunion shows ever work Did Auf Wiedersehen Pet work when they went back This Life didn’t. If Friends came back now it would be a bit weird.’
Although she’s very fond of the actor who plays her Tesco husband, Mark Addy (‘a lovely chap’), her real husband is the ridiculously handsome Australian actor/director Daniel Lapaine, 41, who first caught the eye as the glistening blond swimmer in Muriel’s Wedding.
‘I’m a lucky girl. It’s usually the other way round, where your on-screen man is gorgeous. Life has treated me well.’
They met in 1998 and have been married for ten years. ‘When I met him I couldn’t believe my luck and I still can’t.
I’ve brainwashed him into believing he’s lucky and it seems to be working. My two bridesmaids, gay male friends, said you’ve got to keep on being funny and believe you can get to a man through his stomach and you’ll hang on to him. So I keep the jokes rolling.
Every morning I wake up and ask, “Did you hear the one about…” and he does very well in terms of food.’
Fictional family: Fay with her Cold Feet on screen husband, John Thomson
Food-wise, Daniel is definitely doing well. Fay is about to publish her second cookery book, What’s For Dinner, which contains simple family recipes, and she’s hosting Good Food TV’s new series Perfect, which pits top chefs against each other to create curries, picnics, Mexican feasts or romantic dinners. ‘I picked really good chefs who are all accessible. They’re not scary. I would like to say I was born a cook as well as to say I was born to act. Neither of those things are true. Delia taught me how to cook on TV and I learnt a lot from burning pans and things going wrong.’
When her daughter Parker, now nine, was born, Fay learned to cook in a new way. Parker was very adventurous with tastes and Sonny, five, frequently asks to make the dessert. ‘Last night it was cereal, blueberries and ice cream. It didn’t taste great, but the thought was in the right place. He said, “I want to make my family pudding.”
‘Both my children are foodies and I take full responsibility for that. When they ask, “What’s for dinner” they say it in an excited not a bored way. It’s a bit of pressure but, incidentally, that’s the name of my next cookbook.’
I grew up in the same era as Fay and was given the same thing to eat most nights. It usually involved something frozen or instant. And every Sunday there’d be a charred roast with soggy vegetables. But Fay, whose parents separated when she was two, had a very different experience. ‘My mum went on to marry an Italian, one of the first importers of fresh pasta, which didn’t exist in supermarkets at that time. So while my mates were having sugar sandwiches I was having ravioli and rocket. My dad married a German woman so I had sauerkraut and stroganoff and different kinds of cake.’
WHERE ARE THE REST OF THE COLD FEET CREW NOW
starring in The Fast Show, Thomson appeared in a host of stage and TV
roles, including Coronation Street, and will soon appear in BBC1’s
Waterloo Road. Has two daughters with wife Samantha.
Won acclaim for his work in BBC sitcom My Dad’s The Prime Minister and Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
Appeared as Sir Anthony Strallan in Downton Abbey. Has four children with artist wife Victoria Threlfall.
in crime drama series Wire In The Blood, spy drama Spooks as Ros Myers
and ITV comedy drama Kingdom. She’s been married to screenwriter Simon
Wheeler since 2002 and they have two children.
on to appear in Friends, ITV drama Kidnap And Ransom and in the West
End opposite Christian Slater in Swimming With Sharks. Baxendale has
three children with US film director David L Williams.
had a successful film and TV career, starring in BBC series Murphy’s
Law and ITV film Bloody Sunday, which won him a British Independent Film
Will soon be seen in The Hobbit.
Surprisingly Fay didn’t learn to cook from her mother. ‘No. She never made me lift a finger till the day I left home because her mother had made her do lots of chores. I didn’t clean my room, I didn’t make a cup of coffee until I was 17. But in my own home I’m always on the move. If I’m in a hotel I puff up their pillows. I can’t help it. I’d come to your house with a Hoover.’
And she always manages to look immaculate, too. Today her skin is flawless, her hair expertly highlighted.
She’s not super-skinny, but she’s never let that bother her as an actor, working right through both her pregnancies.
She was eight and a half months pregnant with Parker when she filmed the last episode of Cold Feet in 2003. She seems very comfortable in herself.
‘I’m organised and I’m a multi-tasker.
Not naturally, nobody is, I’ve moulded myself to be. I made home-made granola this week while I blowdried my hair and answered emails. And I’ve always loved food. Every Monday morning I think I need to go on a diet. Sometimes on a Tuesday. But it’s very difficult to be a food writer and make all this delicious food.’
Was there an epiphany moment where she thought, ‘I’m good at this, I’m going to write a cookbook’ ‘No. I thought about it for ages. My relationship with food changed and is continuing to change as my children get older. I’ve got 150 cookbooks and I use possibly two recipes from each one. I wanted to write a book of recipes that work for my family with ingredients that taste great but I don’t have to ride a donkey up a mountain to get them.’
Cooking has not made her less interested in acting, and she was recently in BBC1’s Moving On. ‘But I’ve always been life first, acting second.
Acting is part of my life but it does need to fit into that puzzle. If I like a script or a character I want to act, but there’s got to be a reason. My husband and I try to make sure someone’s always around for the children.’
If her father had had his way, she would have been a kept woman, with nothing to do but raise her children. He was quite well off and wanted her to go to Swiss finishing school. ‘He wanted me to marry well. That was all he cared about.
Marry well in the sense that I could have a house full of staff. I’m not fully staffed. I really rather regret that element. But when I started to do well, which took a long time, he was happy. He wanted me to be financially secure. “You’re going to find a nice husband,” he told me. Did I have to love him “That’s not necessary,” he said.
‘But he changed his mind because he likes me being on TV and he likes coming to the odd premiere.
He’s proud. He cooks my recipes.’ And she did, as it turns out, find a husband she loves.
She says she and Daniel, who was in Channel 4’s Black Mirror, are ‘both juggling our lives so that everything remains enjoyable’. What does he do to keep her happy ‘Exactly what I say, otherwise he’s in big trouble. He lets me wear the trousers. He’s very good at wife management.’
So, with such a blissful home life already, what’s her idea of Perfect ‘A late lie-in where the kids end up in our bed, a cup of tea with my own baked bread. Then I’d go out for a great meal or stay in for a great meal and I’d like to do some shopping. Random retail therapy. It can be buying presents for other people or myself. I like to go into a shop at some point in a day.’ Cooking, shopping, in bed with the children. What’s endearing about Fay is that not only does she put life first, acting second, she puts other people first. She never did need the staff her father so wanted her to have, they would have just got in the way.
Perfect starts on the Good Food channel on January 16 at 7pm. What’s For Dinner (Collins, 20) is out next month.