Indian cookbook writer Vicky Bhogal had a rapid rise to fame with her first venture into culinary publishing, but now she’s off to France and is selling her North London Flat. Nigel Lewis talked to her before she ups sticks
Words Nigel Lewis
Vicky Bhogal found overnight fame during the early noughties when her debut Indian cookbook became a surprise best seller. But it was her ability to make her own luck that helped her turn the book into a food empire.
Called Cooking Like Mummyji, her book tapped into what was then a growing trend for ‘real’ Indian food rather than the anglicised version most Tandoori restaurants cook up.
Published in 2003 when Vicky was just 24 years old, the book won several gongs including ones from the Guild of Food Writers and the Glenfiddich Awards.
It also won praise from leading foodies including Nigella Lawson, who said she was “mad about this book” while writer India Knight and actress Meera Syal also went on record in praise of her recipes.
Vicky Bhogal says the idea for the book came to her when she was working in advertising in London and many people, including fellow British Asians, would constantly ask her for advice and recipes to make home-cooked Indian food.
After the success of the first book, a follow-up Mummyji book was published in 2004 while her third book, A Fair Feast, is said to have graced the kitchen of Elton John. It was written as a fundraiser and pulled in £100,000 for The Fairtrade Foundation and Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign.
All this also opened doors within big business. After the success of Cooking Like Mummyji, Vicky wrote a letter to then Tesco CEO Terry Leahy and suggested that the supermarket should sell real home-cooked style Indian food.
“My agent was furious with me because I had written a letter direct rather than go through them, but I was soon proved right; I got an email back from one of the Tesco product team asking to meet,” she says.
The resulting deal created a new line of products for Tesco, which helped Vicky eventually build up a business worth several million pounds.
The flourishing business also helped Vicky get her foot on the property ladder. She bought a two-bedroom apartment on the Finchley Road in Hampstead within a converted Victorian house.
She also persuaded the vendor to knock £30,000 off the asking, because otherwise it was beyond her maximum budget and she couldn’t afford it.
Vicky then set about doing up the flat. This included the kitchen where she has done all her recipe research for many of her subsequent books, and more recently also for the updated version of Cooking with Mummyji, published last year by Grub Street. It includes some 100 Punjabi recipes “as cooked in British Asian homes”.
But she is now taking a different culinary path. Her Hampstead flat is on the market at £850,000 and she and her partner have bought a run-down farm in Burgundy, France which after it’s been renovated will be used to host cooking courses – and be somewhere quieter for Vicky to do her recipe research for future books.
“When my parents arrived in the UK they plunged headlong into a completely foreign country where they had to learn a new language, and me moving to France fells like a similar story – so I’m taking French classes like they did English ones,” she says.
“I have a completely different life now – last week I was driving a tractor up and down a field instead of battling the tube.”
Vicky’s flat (see pix above and below) has a lounge, kitchen, two double bedrooms, bathroom as well as a garden at the back. It’s about 10 minutes on foot from Finchley Road Station for the Jubilee and Metropolitan tube lines.
For more information contact Foxtons on 020 7433 6600.