The life and times of chef Rosemary Shrager

Best known for being an haute cuisine teacher on the reality show Ladette to Lady, Rosemary Shrager also ran a cookery school at Amhuinnsuidhe Castle on the Isle of Harris.

A regular on our TV screens, having appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, and The Real Marigold Hotel, she tells Scottish Field about her life and career.

I didn’t become a chef until I was 27. I didn’t know it was what I was going to do, although I had always cooked. I did interior design first and I loved it, but I wasn’t very good at it so I turned my hobby into a business.

I didn’t go to college or anything like that, I learned on the hoof. It was very hard work, as it is for anybody, but for me the lack of self-confidence was the hardest thing because I hadn’t been taught and had learned from books.

I’ve always loved Scotland. I lived on Harris and had a great place there with the Bulmer family; my time there was very special. I’m often in and out visiting friends. I just love driving around Scotland, especially across Skye .

I love walking. I’m a bigger lady now and I don’t walk as much as I used to, but it’s something I really enjoy doing. When I have time on my hands I’m going to paint, but that won’t be for many years to come.

My favourite thing to cook is chicken and potato pie, although I also love cooking lobsters. I really enjoy cooking and dressing them – there’s something really lovely about that. It should always be done with a glass of wine in hand. Pierre Koffmann is my hero. He was, and still is, the most fabulous chef. He has been one of my greatest inspirations.

I never thought I’d do reality TV. It just happened, but I can see why it did. I’ve got such a weird personality – I’m a fun person and I’m very self-deprecating, which I think is a good thing. I’m not worried about what people think of me on television, so I’m able to be quite relaxed and chilled-out. When I was doing the Alan Titchmarsh show and they took the mickey out of me, I loved it. It was funny.

I spent eight hours in a hut full of rats in I’m a Celebrity. It was the worst night of my life. I could not believe what they were doing to us. The rest of my jungle experience was easy, but I don’t know how I got over that night. I never give up though, and it did remind me how determined I am.

My grandmother was a very strong, determined woman and she was a wonderful cook. I didn’t know her as well as I wanted to but I think, without her realising it, that I have been infl uenced by her.

I’m scared of birds. I was attacked when I was a child by blackbirds or crows or something and I have been afraid of them ever since. If I see a flock of birds I have to run away, and if there’s one in the house I freak out.

I hate it when I’m sitting at a table and people wave their knives and forks in the air. I know it’s weird but I think it looks horrible. There’s just something about it I can’t bear. If you’re going to talk, put them down first!

Peanut butter is my guilty pleasure. I always have a stock of it in the cupboard. It has to be crunchy, though – that’s really important.

My four grandchildren have got me wrapped around their little fingers. I never thought it would happen to me but they have got me exactly where they want me.

Honesty is the most important thing. I’ve always instilled in my children that you’ve got to be honest because people prefer that. If you’re not honest you lack that vulnerability and I think vulnerability is important in life.

I don’t like garden gnomes. I have one on my shelf that was sent to me by a chef. It’s weird, it’s saying ‘cheers!’ with some wine and has a loaf of bread in the other hand. It’s lovely, but I wouldn’t put it in the garden.