Passionate about encouraging a life-long love of cooking and enjoying good, wholesome food, Annabel Karmel has become one of the UK’s most trusted experts on feeding babies, children and families. With her first book “The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner” becoming a best seller in the early 1990’s Annabel has since written 37 books, which have sold over four million copies worldwide, covering every stage of a child’s development.
We chat to Annabel about how she has managed to achieve success, overcome trauma and how she keeps her life positive.
One word that describes you?
In your own words, what do you do?
I work hard to improve the quality of food that we give our children. I create healthy meals that never compromise on taste. I want everyone to be able to instill good eating habits in their children from an early age.
Who is your greatest influence in your career/life?
My children. My first child Natasha died at the age of 3 months…my second child Nicholas was the world’s worst eater….I wrote my first book ‘The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner’ in 1991 after Nicholas was born. It is the second best selling hard back non fiction book of all time. I wrote the book as a legacy to Natasha . I wanted her short life to make a difference and I believed that one thing that I had a talent for was creating recipes to encourage children to eat a healthy diet that would set a pattern for the rest of their life. Nicholas soon had two sisters Lara and Scarlett both following in his footsteps as fussy eaters .. It was challenging for me with three very young children but I was determined to get them to eat well and have ended up writing 38 cookery books for babies, children and families….kid tested yummy recipes that get the thumbs up from the harshest food critics of them all…
What is your favourite part of your job?
I love writing books and creating new recipes.. I love to see children enjoying my food and adults too..and I love to see copies of my book splattered with food… its not one of those coffee table cook books.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
I like to convert my recipes into chilled meals that are sold in supermarkets so that even parents who don’t have time to cook can still give their child a healthy meal that tastes like home made. I’m a perfectionist so I will continue to tweak the recipes until I feel that is absolutely right. I then test the recipes on children and only if the children like them will they go on shelf.
What is your greatest achievement?
Changing the way we feed children in this country…
What was your Plan B?
Originally I was a musician I studied at the Royal College of Music and then at the Royal Conservatoire in Holland. I played the harp and I sang. I played many concerts and also made CD’s and I even played Cinderella in pantomime with Dennis Waterman as Buttons with a harp in the kitchen. When Natasha died that all changed I wanted to work with children and make a difference to their lives..
What is your most prized possession?
That would have to be my three beautiful dogs! I have a golden retriever called Sabre and a Samoyed called Hamilton and my baby an American spaniel called Bono. I would prefer to spend money on grooming and spoiling my dogs than spoiling myself any day
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Follow your passion. Figure out what you love, who you really are. And have the courage to do that. Courage is the greatest of all virtues because if you haven’t got courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others.
Please complete the sentence… I could not live without…
My dogs, my children and delicious food.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Audrey Hepburn, she was such an inspirational woman and so stylish. She had such star quality about her and was so beautiful, yet she also seemed so approachable and relatable. I don’t think any actress since Audrey has had such a lasting impact on film and fashion. I am sure she would have had some scandalous stories to share too!
Sustainability and consumption are two words you will hardly find in the same sentence – which brands do you think are good quality and are doing their bit for people and the planet?
There is an amazing brand called Reformation, yet it hasn’t been brought to the UK market yet it is in the US. They take into consideration the social and environmental factors in the design process. They are completely sustainable from the fabrics they use, to the production methods they implement. Their clothes are beautiful and also great value for money!
Do you support a charity or cause?
Yes I am patron of Julia’s House. It is a hospice for children who have conditions or illnesses that cannot be cured. Julia’s house not only looks after these children but also gives parents their main carers much needed respite when needed. Only about 7% of their running costs are government funded and so I organized a reception last year at Downing Street with Samantha Cameron to raise awareness for this wonderful charity. I presented them with health care charity of the year award two years ago and that’s how I met them… Soon afterwards I took my dogs to Dorset where they are based and the children just adored them . I figured out that my coming to see them wouldn’t have the same impact as my furry trio and I do think pets can really help children with illnesses or disabilities…
What are your positive fashion staples this season?
I like Polliander particularly the Dog Chaise ..I can just see my 10 month Golden Retriever sprawled out and luxuriating so decadent.. I also love the smell of Archipelago Lemongrass room diffuser which takes away the smell of the dog on the chaise longue !
What is your personal luxury?
I have a massage every two weeks which I find de-stressing and rejuvenating.
What is your most treasured luxury item?
I still have some of my flamboyant costumes that I wore when I was performing on stage playing the harp. My mother used to do the shop fittings for all the big department stores in London. She used to get a lot of samples from some of the most expensive fashion brands at the time. I still have some of these outfits I wouldn’t wear them now but they are very nostalgic and I will always keep them
What steps do you take to make your life more positive?
I eat well and walk my dogs in the park which always makes my outlook on life a bit more positive! I also think its important to take pleasure in small things whether it’s uploading fun images on Instagram, having lunch with a friend outside when the sun is shining, going to a movie during the week. Make time for things that make you happy….