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Nigellissima: How we built the kitchen set

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Jennifer Fazey Jennifer Fazey | 14:21 UK time, Friday, 28 September 2012

The essence of the new series Nigellissima is to show how easy it is to bring the spirit of Italy into the kitchen and onto the plate - using ingredients available in any English supermarket.

As the series producer it's my job to pull all six programmes together and deliver them on time and in budget.

This is only possible if you have a great team like I have with Nigella's camera crew and director, who have worked with her for many years.

One of the early decisions to be made is always where to film.

In a perfect world we would film Nigella Lawson in her own kitchen where she feels most at home cooking.

But this would be impossible to do safely considering all the camera and lighting kit that is involved. And that's before adding all the crew into the mix.

I'm not sure Nigella's family would be too keen to have 14 of us hanging around for 12 hours a day for a six week stretch.

The next best option was to recreate Nigella's kitchen in a studio.

Nigella would still feel confident cooking in a familiar kitchen layout and the camera and sound crew would have the control, space and flexibility they needed.

Once we'd found a suitable studio we had eight days to build a fully functioning kitchen and patio garden from scratch.

Day one was spent putting fake walls or 'flats' up to create our room within a room.

Our kitchen only has three walls - the cameras and monitors all sit where a normal fourth wall would.

Just as in Nigella's own home we all wanted our set kitchen to have a large bookcase.

We needed this to be as light as possible so that we could physically move it safely when we needed to reposition the camera or lights.

Our design assistant Vicky came up with a fantastic idea and if you look closely at the pic above you'll see on the floor spines of books made of cardboard.

See below how they were mixed in with the other real books, most of which are Nigella's own. She's quite a reader.

Our small patio garden was based on something similar that Nigella has in her London home.

Luckily the studio had a large brick wall (see below) so that made for a great natural backdrop.

We then hired lots of large bushes and plants. With no natural light they had to be kept alive with a special lamp which we put on each night after we had wrapped shooting.

The plants needed even more watering than usual too because of the hot studio lighting.

We laid a real concrete patio and even brought in live moss to fill the cracks.

After bringing in many of Nigella's own pots, pans and props the last stage was a lick of paint on the floor and we were ready to go.

One of the common questions is what happens afterwards?

Well, the set goes into a special BBC storage area for the next time. The books and props all went back to Nigella's home.

The plants are returned to thrive in the natural light and hopefully get a little more TLC than they got from our very un-green fingered crew.

Jennifer Fazey is the series producer of Nigellissima.

Nigellissima continues on Monday, 1 October at 8.30pm on BBC Two. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.


  • Comment number 1.

    More food porn from the Uber rich for the Uber rich, just what austerity UK needs - what a load of rubbish.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think your recipes are brilliant and they are not just for the uber rich anyone can do them, the ingredients are easy to get hold of and I am certainly not uber-rich. I cant wait for my eggs in purgatory this morning. Thank-you so much

  • Comment number 3.

    In times of recession, people like watching glamour and fantasy. It's why Fred Astaire became famous. So stop being so miserable. It's not clever.

  • Comment number 4.

    @Fred...I totally agree and it is a very pertinent comparaison

  • Comment number 5.

    Well said, or Right Said Fred!
    I can't believe the kitchen is a set! The books aren't real! It's fake - all fake! I'm gutted. I hope the food doesn't taste of sawdust & paint. Watching it now - swear I could smell that pasta!
    This is so much better viewing that Ramsey swearing or Oliver lithping all over the place!

  • Comment number 6.

    Loved the fake patio - clever! However the recipes appear to be tweaked from previous versions, changing a couple of ingredients here and there. I won't be buying the book this time but will continue to use her earlier books, adapting to suit our taste and the state of the store-cupboard.

  • Comment number 7.

    love the set, love the recipes but pleaaaase Nigella, wash your hands after handling raw chicken ...the set might be fake but the salmonella won't be !!

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh Dear pkenneally, you really do like to moan don't you? Uber rich - I don't think so. Pasta, lemons, barley, oh and a chicken. I think most would cope, if they're interested. Why those who are not interested still watch, I don't know.
    Enjoying the new series and picking up the usual hints & tips along the way!

  • Comment number 9.

    Uber rich, this is a great cooking show, Nigella is always enthusiastic, a fabulous cook, and very entertaining, I suggest you go and sit in a quiet room somewhere and cool off, or heres a another thought, switch off or turn to another channel, always works for me if I dont like to watch a particular show.....

  • Comment number 10.

    I thought the show was great. I've never (no, really) sat and watched Nigella cooking before, and it was very enjoyable. Not sure quite why my husband enjoyed watching it so much though :) Food porn indeed, but who cares? The food looked great and there were some lovely new ideas to try .... including cooking chips from cold .... interesting!

  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks so much for your comments. Funny how many people have mentioned the Tuscan fries Mariacornelia - most of the crew didn't believe it either until Nigella cooked them. Then once we'd tasted we were all converts.

    And great Kate and Tinkerbell, that you pick up on the simplicity of recipes like the Eggs in Purg and roast chicken.. I can't tell you how long we spent with Nigella choosing which of her dishes to include in the series. How to keep make sure there's something in there for everyone? But sounds like on the whole, you are loving the ideas and even personalising a few too.

    We're half way through the series already so hope you keep enjoying the shows and commenting. Btw some v special Nigella treats in store for this Christmas ;)

  • Comment number 12.

    Were the kitchens used in previous series also constructed in a studio?

  • Comment number 13.

    Love the set and the show... just wondering next time you can always come and update my kitchen and use it... i really wouldn't mind... would love Nigella to show me some recipes... keep hinting for the book for xmas... not sure i can wait that long though...

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm in trouble now because of the Nigellisima show. My wife saw the ciambella cake mould used in episode 5 for the yogurt pot cake. It was made very plain that Santa needed to bring one this Christmas!! I have searched all over the internet and cannot find anything similar. There are lots of ring cake / savarin moulds around, but not that produce a thin ring with a large hole in the centre like the one used in the show. Please help!!

  • Comment number 15.

    Love this show and the recipes. Because Nigella is the queen of express, can't wait to try some of the recipes on Boxing Day. Changing the coffee ice cream to rum & raisin, doing the olive oil cake and the pork loin. Who could resist "mock mash" and artichoke bottoms with broad beans, yummy.

  • Comment number 16.

    In reply to Old Dogsbody, I think Lakeland Ltd sells the same savarin mould (22cm) that was used on the show. Also be aware, if you make it, that the cake also needs 2 pots of plain flour (in addition to the cornflour) which was somehow edited out on the TV show!

  • Comment number 17.

    Seriously BelB? That would be why mine came out like a brick last night then!

  • Comment number 18.

    just made the pasta rissotto with my daughters and we all loved it, cooked the meatball pasta too and just as good. Thank you Nigella we are not uber rich but enjoy well cooked food and these recipes are reasonable.

  • Comment number 19.

    Really enjoying the Italian music in the back ground of the show. Can anyone tell me where I can find it?

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Jennifer, really enjoyed reading your behind the scenes post about the Nigelissima set. Nice to know most of the books on show were fakes -- I was suffering from book-envy ;-) As a vegetarian I often have to look away when watching Nigella cook BUT I still watch the show because I enjoy her attitude to food and largely share it plus I find many of her meat/fish recipes can be adapted for use with quorn or soya or seitan (all the same I often wish that Nigella has a revelation and becomes a vegetarian especially when she is brutal to poor chickens or cooks LIVE shellfish!!!) To be honest, I watch not just for the cookery but for other reasons: I've watched earlier series and in them Nigella was often very self-critical (e.g. Nigella Bites where she is always wincing at herself) and in later series (like this one) she seems much more self-assured and serene and that is just very, very pleasing to see. Without getting too 'Californian', I think you'd have to be warped yourself not to witness that sort of 'personal growth' in someone and not feel good inside. Also, when you cook you offer yourself to the people you are cooking for and that is nerve-racking enough when you are cooking for friends but to cook on t.v. for invisible strangers is to put yourself under a relentless spotlight and that takes amazing courage, I mean that, real courage and I admire it. If other readers don't understand what I mean, try to vividly imagine yourself in her shoes... yup, it is scary, isn't it? Finally, I think Nigella is beautiful (curves in all the right places) and I mean that respectfully, and not as a pervert slobbering over 'food porn' (whatever that means). True, Nigella flirts a lot - that is just her style and it is done tongue-in-cheek and in a self-deprecating way that is warm-hearted and charming. Believe me if it was the least bit sleazy or sordid, I'd reach simultaneously for the sickbag and the remote and I don't think it is either. Thus, although I differ from Nigella in fundamental ways (e.g. in the 'spirituality of food' which for me means in order to be ethical and 'holy' food must be compassionate and thus not involve the killing of animals or exploitation of people so it must be vegetarian and 'fair traded' etc) I still like and admire her on many levels. I hope she keeps making cookery programmes and I will keep watching them.
    @johnward213 Try using an app like SoundHound or Shazam to name the tune you are interested in... I'll have a try doing this myself and if I get any results I'll post them here.

  • Comment number 21.

    You asked about background music/songs. SoundHound results:
    Opening Titles, Episode 6 = It's Your Thing, by George Semper and the Rhythm Kings
    First Recipe, Part 1, Episode 6 = Revival, by Martine Girault
    First Recipe, Part 2, Episode 6 = Soul Junction, by The Backyard Heavies
    Serving Up & Transition ???(SoundHound was unable to identify the riff.)
    Second Recipe, Part 1, Episode 6 = Blues for Pres, Sweets, Ben and All the Other Funky Ones, by Sonny Sitt, Oscar Peterson Trio
    Second Recipe, Part 2, Episode 6 = Nessuno, by Quartetto Radar
    Second Recipe, Part 3, Episode 6 = ???(SoundHound was unable to identify the riff.)
    Second Recipe, Part 4, Episode 6 = Under the Sea, by Digby Jones
    Second Recipe, Part 5, Episode 6 = ???(SoundHound was unable to identify the song.)
    Transition = ???(SoundHound was unable to identify the song.)
    Third Recipe, Part 1, Episode 6 = ???(SoundHound was unable to identify the riff.)
    Third Recipe, Part 2, Episode 6 = Che M'Importa del Mondo, by Rita Pavone
    End Credits = Tu Vuo' Fa l'Americano, by Renato Carosone
    Hope that helps!
    P.S. Just guessing but I suspect the music SoundHound was unable to identify probably came from BBC's own archives/improv session???

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi johnward213 and Gero34

    Thanks for your comments on the tracklistings - you can now find full details of the music featured in episode six of Nigellissima on the programme page.

    Hope that helps.

    BBC TV blog

  • Comment number 23.

    Love the set can't believe it's not Nigella's actual kitchen.
    Trying out the lamb chops tonight so wish me luck.

  • Comment number 24.

    Many thanks BelB @16

  • Comment number 25.

    Enjoyed the Q & A session with Nigella last night at RMS organised by Chorleywood Book Store. What a delight!
    Would like to know what she has adapted to use as a licorice box.


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