First she seduced America from afar. Now Nigella Lawson is bringing her brand of sultry cooking ashore.
After several years as England's self-proclaimed domestic goddess, Lawson has launched her first television series for a U.S. audience, the Food Network's weekly "Nigella Feasts" (noon Sundays).
It's a move that feels long overdue for a food personality already established here with a series of popular cookbooks - including the provocatively named "Nigella Bites" (Hyperion, 2002) - and countless cameos on the food media scene.
"Real life gets in the way," she said recently of her delayed foray into American television. "I've never had a professional reason for not making an extra TV series. It just wasn't right for me."
That's due partly to the death of her first husband in 2001. Lawson says she wanted more time with her two children. But she also was apprehensive about adjusting to the American market and its tight production deadlines.
"I'm always sort of embarrassed when people say, 'How many shows do you in a day?"' she says. "I was thinking we were doing very well when we made one in three days."
Like her previous programs, which aired in Europe, Lawson's new show was filmed in her family's home in England. It gives the program a cozy lived-in, loved-in look (despite unusual camera angles that can make viewers feel they are peering around corners).
Her easy, whatever-may-come approach to cooking also remains intact. In the premiere episode, she prepares do-ahead chili and chocolate cherry trifle for a crowd, and isn't bothered by exacting measurements or fussy methods.
She's too busy licking chocolate off the mixing spoon. "Don't say you wouldn't," she says slyly to the camera.
The series will focus on transforming Lawson's ease in the kitchen into your own, with ideas for entertaining, eating on the go, potlucks and indulgences for a bit of a pampering.
She says she tried hard to balance her show's British roots with the needs of an American audience. Temperatures and measurements are converted for U.S. cooks, but little else has changed.
"People can kind of guess I'm not American," she says, giving a throaty laugh. "It would be fake."
As for her much-noted sex appeal?
"I always feel people overstress that," she says. "My producers are women, and they're heterosexual women. As far as I'm aware, their view isn't that I'm going to be singing my siren song."
Perhaps. But it's hard to discount Lawson's flirtatious ways with the camera, the knowing, sidelong glances, the slow bites. Overstressed or not, food and sensuality blur a bit on Lawson's set.
"I love food, and I'm very greedy," she says. "But I always feel it makes it sound like I'm doing some exotic dance of the seven veils."