Angellica Bell may be a Londoner, but she is just as proud of the Yorkshire side of her family. Catherine Scott reports.
It has been a difficult few weeks for television presenter Angellica Bell.
First, she lost her grandfather, and then her grandmother six weeks later and then on March 13 her uncle Dave died. All were from her Yorkshire family and have left Bell devastated.
“When my mum remarried my stepdad (leader of Ealing Council Julian Bell) and his family were from Sheffield and the Peak District, they welcomed us with open arms and really made me feel part of the family,” explains the 42-year-old mother-of-two.
“To lose three members of that side of my family so close together is devastating. My auntie has lost her mum and dad and her husband in a matter of weeks.”
It is clear that Bell is very proud of this side of her family, telling me about her grandfather Rennie’s work at Firth Brown, now Forgemasters, and the fact it was her uncle Dave who was the man behind the 52 Henry Boot elephants that appeared around Sheffield two years ago.
“He got up at 2am to put the elephants at places around the city over a two-week period. They raised a lot of money for Sheffield Children’s Hospital. He even had one of the elephants named ‘Dave’ after him.
“My family have always been really part of the community both in Hathersage and Sheffield.”
Bell, pays homage to her Yorkshire family in her children’s cookery book, Fantastic Eats and How to Cook Them published earlier this month.
“My stepdad was the first person to introduce me to Yorkshire pudding and I have included mini Yorkshire puddings in my book. My grandma Helen Bell cooked for the family too and because of my grandparents I have a Bakewell tart recipe included too.”
There are also recipes inspired by the other side of her family. Her St Lucian grandmother was the one who really taught a young Angellica to cook. From the age of five, rather than baking cookies, she had her granddaughter filleting fish.
Bell, who recently co-presented The Big Family Cooking Showdown with Yorkshire’s own Tommy Banks, won Celebrity MasterChef in 2017.
“I think people were quite shocked when I won as no one had ever seen me work in a kitchen before.” She said she didn’t want to bring a cookery book out that was trying to compete with likes of James Martin, which is why she decided to do a cookery book for children.
“I’m self-taught and I think a lot of people can relate to that.”
Although Fantastic Eats is aimed at children aged five and upwards, Bell wants it to be the kind of cookbook that will stay with them as they grow up. “It’s not all cupcakes and baking. There are some real staples in it and it is the type of book that they might even take to university with them and cook for friends.
“It is also about cooking with your children which is so important. You need to help children feel confident in the kitchen so that they can do it on their own. If they make a mess so what? It is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, you just have to factor clean up time afterwards!”
Bell was the face of Children’s BBC for seven years before moving to regular presenting roles on BBC’s The One Show although she admits she was worried about being able to break away from her ‘children’s TV presenter’ label
“It can be tricky for some people to be taken seriously after they have been in children’s television as long as I had. But it is all about being adaptable.” But succeed she did, also presenting The Martin Lewis Money Show on ITV and Dog Rescuers on Channel 5. She has just become a presenter of new classical radio station Scala, where Simon Mayo is a fellow presenter. She presents the 7am to 10am slot on Saturdays.
But Bell says she never planned to have a career in television and ended up doing a politics degree, studying in Bristol.
“I never really knew what I wanted to be, but I had quite an outgoing streak and did a lot of drama at school and liked having a laugh and having fun.”
She said it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time that gave her a break into television.
“I was working in admin at the BBC and CBBC were looking for presenters so I put together a little video and sent it in. I was then offered a screen test, but it went so badly that I never thought in a million years I would be offered the job. I had to talk about myself for a minute in front of a camera and I think I spent the entire time telling them why they should give me the job – the next thing I knew they’d offered it to me.”
As well as bringing her fame, being a television presenter has given her other opportunities. These include taking part in Comic Relief Does Fame Academy, and sailing 1,000 miles from Belfast to London for Sport Relief in a challenge called Hell on the High Seas.
She has also run the London Marathon and learnt to tap-dance for the TV show Born To Shine.
She lives in London with her husband Michael Underwood (a fellow TV presenter and Celebrity MasterChef finalist) and their two children.
“Life is a juggle and we do have to work our schedules out to make sure one of us is with the children. Although my career is really important to me, my children will always come first,” says Bell.
Fantastic Eats! and how to cook them by Angellica Bell is published by Quadrille, £15.