We catch up with cook book author and interior design expert Sophie Conran to find out how she discovered her passion for baking and what inspired her to create her new cookware range… How did you first become interested in cooking? My mum is a cookery writer, so I grew up in a home where food and family meals were central to our lives. She taught me so much, and really inspires me every day, still. Did you learn a lot of important lessons about the food industry from your parents? My mum taught me to cook, and equally I learnt from my father about design. My dad taught me how to appreciate things by looking at form and function. These were the kinds of conversations we had at the dinner table. We’d talk about what makes an environment work and how to make it better through decoration. What appeals to you most about baking? I bake a lot with my daughter Coco, and she is very good! It is a lovely way of spending quality time together. Equally, I bake on my own when everybody else in the family is out and about – it is so satisfying presenting them with something that looks completely irresistible when they get home. What utensil or equipment couldn’t you live without? My Aga and sharp knives. How did your first cookbook Pies come into existence? It was when I was working full-time for Jasper, my brother. It was such a busy time and I was working long hours, but I still wanted to cook something hearty, warming and healthy for my children to have in the evening. I started making pies in the evening and leaving them in the fridge for them to have the following day. That’s when it dawned on me – people need pies! Particularly people like me who lead busy lives. Do you have any more cookbooks planned or topics you’d particularly like to do one on? Yes! I am not currently working on one, but I am always thinking about it. I just need to have the time. Can you tell us about your new range of ceramics and textiles? I recently added some gorgeous new pieces to my Portmeirion cookware collection. Two new saucepans with glass lids and two new frying pans, all of which are available in black or white finish, with prices starting from £55. We are also always adding lovely new pieces to the Portmeirion crockery collection – most recently a gorgeous ceramic cafetiere, storage jars, a fish plate and a herb pot. I launched my second collection of kitchen textiles with Norfolk Kitchen recently too. The Norfolk-made range is of the softest linen and beautiful peached cotton and comes in a variety of uplifting but classic new colours. The linen pieces come in sunny yellow, navy and a subtle grey, while the cotton pieces come in the same colours in the ‘baby pip’ print. Does your own cooking and baking experience dictate how you design your kitchenware? Completely. I design things that are practical first and foremost. I think of things while I cook all the time – things that I would like to have. What inspires you most about designing items for the kitchen? Kitchen items are essentially tools, so they have to be practical, but I also believe they should enhance the experience of cooking, eating and entertaining. So I always try to think about who will be using them and envision the whole atmosphere around the end use. What’s your own kitchen like? My kitchen is bright pink! I love the colour – you can’t help but feel happy when you walk in and it is a lovely place to be, cooking and chatting. I think it is fun to have a colourful home, because it can positively change the way you feel. The kitchen is the heart of our home, so I knew it had to be warm, homely and happy. It still makes me smile all these years later when I walk in first thing in the morning or after work. What’s next for you? I am constantly designing and extending existing collections. I have just launched a brand new range of gorgeous bed linen, which is exclusive to my online shop www.sophieconran.com and have some very exciting new developments in the pipeline with Portmeirion. I am constantly on the lookout for inspiration, at home, through people I meet, in the office, at trade shows, anywhere! I am also hatching some very exciting plans for my online business – watch this space! Sophie Conran items can be found on her direct website, Portmeirion and ICTC, as well as a number of online stores including John Lewis.
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