Silvana Franco interview

Down-to-earth Derbyshire lass Silvana Franco has been charming audiences with her no-nonsense, no-fuss approach to food ever since Ainsley Harriot took her under his wing on Gourmet Express. Here the Market Kitchen chef talks to HELLO! about current colleagues like Tom Parker Bowles and appearing 'nude' – makeup-wise that is – on TV.

It seems fashionable these days for chefs to be temperamental and throw pans about the kitchen, but your style is a little bit different...

"That's why I started out as a food writer, not a restaurant chef. For me cooking's got to be as enjoyable and achievable as possible - without being stressful. I'm all about cooking at home. Being a wife and a mum means I am a realistic cook. I work and I'm short on time like everyone else."

You got your break with Ainsley Harriot a few years ago...

"Yes, I was the stylist on his show Gourmet Express, making everything look pretty. Chopping the onions and making his 'here's one I prepared earlier'.

"We've got a great relationship. He's tall and I'm very short - we look rather odd next to each other. I'm also very bossy, and the director started to leave our little interactions in a bit longer.

"Not knowing this was going to happen, there I was with a dirty apron and no makeup for something that was going out on national TV!"

Now you're on UKTV show Market Kitchen

"We broadcast from Borough Market and also have a studio with a big café for all the inside stuff where we do taste tests and interviews. It's about seasonal produce and getting people to eat. The programme's also quite aspirational. Part of my role is to make it friendly and down-to-earth."

One of the other presenters is the Duchess of Cornwall's son Tom Parker Bowles...

"He's a really nice man. What I like about Tom is he doesn't have any airs or graces at all. He's just a properly passionate foodie."

And the focus of the show is very much on seasonal produce?

"Yes, cookery's becoming much more ingredient led. It's about using things local to you, but using them to the best of your ability. Let's say it's autumn, we'll talk using about wild mushroom or game.

"Some of the chefs will cook quite tricky things like rabbit. You might think, 'Blimey I've never used rabbit before,' but they'll show you what to do. And it's the right time of year, so do have a go."

Where does your own interest in seasonal food come?

"It's to do with getting older and having my own family – my son Fabio's four – and giving a damn about the environment. We should be eating what's on our doorstep. My brother's got an allotment and he grows fantastic things – broccoli, cauliflower, lots of different kinds of beans. We shouldn't be flying them in from Kenya.

"I get really enthusiastic about local producers and retailers. There are these amazing shops near where I live in Dulwich, South London. For example, we have an Italian deli, a green grocer and fishmonger."

I understand you were born into an Italian family of four which owned an ice cream factory in Derbyshire. Do you speak your parents' language?

"I've got a big birthday this year and I'm learning with a tutor. I've decided it's not too late because it's quite shameful that my Italian is so poor with such an Italian name and heritage."

So what's the big birthday then?

"Forty, but don't write that!"

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