Celia Brooks Brown was born in Colorado and seems to have been the typical all-American girl with a job as a Car Hop at Hungry Boy Drive-In, a local burger joint. I don’t know if that’s what persuaded Celia to become a vegetarian!
It’s true that it’s unusual to find many Americans who would swap the USA for the UK but that’s what Celia Brooks Brown has done. She lives in Northeast London, with her allotment just a couple of streets away.
Celia travels the world to film and find information and inspiration for her various food-related projects and books, and has recently returned from a month in Thailand, where she took Thai cooking lessons and ate a great deal!
This very attractive, slightly built lady arrived here in 1989 to work in the theatre. I asked her how and why she made the transition from arts to eats.
“I studied stage directing, and worked for about 2 years initially doing stage management, then directed a play at The King’s Head in Islington. Suddenly I discovered cooking and realised that producing a meal is much the same creative process — bringing elements together within a time frame and delivering them to an audience.”
I can hear my American friends saying that, in London in those days, she had to find a passion for cooking or starve to death. Perhaps that’s true, but things have changed out of all recognition and Celia says that London is now her favourite city. She is so much immersed in London culture that she conducts Gastrotours of Portobello and Borough Markets (visit www.celiabrooksbrown.com) – but more of that in a few months time.
I am pleased to say that Celia isn’t a stuffy over-earnest vegetarian. She isn’t averse to tucking into some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. (These are, for my European reader, little chocolate cups filled with a sweet peanut butter and very nice too!). She is also quite keen on the odd glass of vodka with a splash of tonic (a girl after my own heart) and her favourite ingredient is a globe artichoke. A girl for all seasons!
Celia Brooks Brown has a rather charmingly reserved persona on TV but there is more to her than that in real life. Her first car was a Ford LTD four door, champagne colour, affectionately called the ‘Love Tub.’ Now, I am sure there is an innocent explanation for the name but if I knew what it was I wouldn’t tell you. Her favourite music is post rock, heavy dub! Think I had better ask what that is!
By 1993 she had developed a successful catering company which offered high-end vegetarian food for all occasions as well as film studio cooking for cast and crew. I guess she didn’t want to stray too far from show business but we are lucky that she has found her place in the food industry. Her client list included Hollywood stars and directors, and she cooked for the cast and crew on the film Judge Dredd at Shepperton Studios.
Celia became one of the chef/teachers at the famous Books for Cooks in Notting Hill, where she cooked, taught and developed new recipes and was co-author of two of the Books for Cooks cookbooks. She says they were a big influence on her career. She published her first book, Vegetarian Foodscape, in 1998 and has since written numerous books on vegetarian cooking and entertaining.
As a food journalist Celia has contributed to several magazines including the BBC Vegetarian Good Food Magazine, the Evening Standard ES Magazine and The Times online. She is also a regular guest on UKTV Food. We hope to see her more often in future!
Books by Celia Brooks Brown:
World Vegetarian Classics 2005
Entertaining Vegetarians, Pavilion Books Ltd, 2004
Low-Carb Vegetarian, Pavilion Books Ltd, 2004
New Kitchen Garden: Organic Gardening with Herbs, Vegetables and Fruit 2003
New Vegetarian: 50 Fresh and Flavourful Recipes, Ryland Peters & Small, 2001
Vegetarian Foodscape, Pen & Ink Publishing, 1998
Interview by Chrissie Walker © 2018