Move over Nigella! Model Laura Zilli says she’s not only a better cook – her new show will teach you to look glam in the kitchen too
Laura Zilli has decided to put her burgeoning modelling career on hold and follow in her father's culinary footsteps
She thinks Nigella Lawson’s a glutton and Sophie Dahl’s an amateur. Now Laura Zilli is ready to give our two domestic goddesses a run for their money with her new Sex And The City-style TV cookery show and cookbook.
The daughter of celebrity chef Aldo Zilli, Laura, 26, has decided to put her burgeoning modelling career on hold and follow in her father’s footsteps.
‘I’m the only one among my friends who can cook and it drives me insane,’ explains Laura.
‘The idea came after my flatmate said she was popping to Waitrose to buy a pasta sauce. So I taught her how to make her own out of tomatoes, garlic and herbs. It was a revelation to her – far more sexy than a miserable microwave dish or a ready-made sauce.’
While Laura says her show and book, called High Class Cooker, aims to teach novices the culinary basics, she insisted on a glamorous approach – but without the cheesy innuendo of the curvier cookery queens. So there’ll be no toying seductively with olives on a cocktail stick la Sophie Dahl, and no licking of fingers like the queen of food porn, Nigella Lawson.
‘My show won’t be salacious,’ insists Laura, who started modelling at 15, was once the face of car manufacturer Alfa Romeo and is still signed to the First Models agency.
‘It’ll show people it’s possible to cook in your Jimmy Choos and prepare a three-course dinner, yet still look fabulous by the time your guests arrive.
'Each recipe will tell you exactly when you can leave the pans bubbling and slip off to do your make-up and change into your glamorous clothes, right down to which outfit to wear for each meal.’
So can Laura cut the mustard as the new Nigella After all, former supermodel Sophie’s attempt to dethrone her failed when we realised she couldn’t even cut bread properly.
‘Nigella’s dishes are often full of butter and cream. She uses lots of fatty ingredients, but while I also use full-fat products, my cooking is far more refined. After all, no one wants to be fat,’ says Laura.
Chip off the old block: Laura in the kitchen with her father Aldo Zilli
Laura is going for a glamorous approach unlike Nigella Lawson and Sophie Dahl
‘And Sophie has no real background in food. I don’t really understand why she had her own cookery show. If being a former plus-size model makes you an authority on food, then so be it, but I don’t really get it.’
Laura plans to share the secrets she gleaned growing up with her family in Italy. ‘We spent the whole of every summer over there. Dad and one of my aunts taught me to cook, and how vital it is to use fresh ingredients from the garden. Dad taught me how to cook eggs as soon as I could walk, and pasta sauces not long after.’
She admits she’s a chip off the old block. ‘We’re both perfectionists who are passionate about food. He’s really critical of everything I do. I wish he’d at least say, “Well done.” But he’s not going to give me that yet.’
That’s because Aldo, 56, knows it’s a tough climb to the top of the restaurant business. He arrived in London from Italy at 19 and his Soho restaurants attracted the likes of Naomi Campbell, George Michael and Freddie Mercury in the 80s and 90s. He was often seen falling out of bars with Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Wham!
Dad taught me how to cook eggs as soon as I could walk, and pasta sauces not long after…
‘I grew up in this party lifestyle,’ recalls Laura. ‘There would be all the celebrities’ kids having our own party while the adults were getting drunk upstairs. It convinced me it’s vital to be a personality in your own restaurant and to be seen cooking for your guests.’
Aldo’s lifestyle soon took its toll. His first wife, Jan – Laura’s mother – divorced him, and for a while he faced financial disaster as he lost 2 million and two of his restaurants.
‘Dad realised it was time to turn his life around. He gave up the binge drinking and decided to lose weight, so he went on TV’s Celebrity Fit Club, which he won after shedding 2st. Now he’s much calmer.’
And what does Aldo think of his daughter’s new career ‘This country has a problem with teenagers and their attitude to food,’ he says. ‘Hopefully she can wean them off eating junk.’
If the show is a success, Laura may follow her father into the restaurant business too. ‘I’ve seen Dad’s fortunes go up and down so I’m nervous about opening my own restaurant, though I’d like to one day. But for now I’ve just got too much to do.’
You can see Laura’s show High Class Cooker, and read the book, later this year. Her website, www.highclass cooker.com, launches next month.