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Ainsley Harriott

Ainsley Harriott

Ainsley Denzil Dubriel Harriott (born 28 February 1957) is an English chef and television presenter. He is known for his BBC cooking game shows Can't Cook, Won't Cook and Ready Steady Cook.

Early life

Harriott was born in Paddington, London, to Peppy (née Strudwick) and pianist and singer, Chester Leroy Harriott (1933–2013). He has Jamaican heritage. Harriott attended Wandsworth Comprehensive School then trained at Westminster Kingsway College (formerly Westminster Technical College), and obtained an apprenticeship at Verrey's restaurant in London's West End, later working as a commis chef.


Harriott's talents lie in comedy and singing as well as cooking. He formed the Calypso Twins with school friend Paul Boross, releasing a hit record in the early 1990s, "World Party". The Calypso Twins were regular performers at the Comedy Store and Jongleurs; they also performed in America and on TV and radio shows. Harriott became head chef at the Long Room of Lord's Cricket Ground. He was asked to present More Nosh, Less Dosh on BBC Radio 5 Live, and also has appeared as an extra in Hale and Pace.

Television work

Harriott became the resident chef on Good Morning with Anne and Nick and later the main presenter of Can't Cook, Won't Cook and originally a chef on Ready Steady Cook before he went on to host it in 2000, both shows involving members of the public. He has presented more straightforward how-to-cook programmes such as Ainsley's Barbecue Bible, Ainsley's Meals in Minutes, Ainsley's Big Cook Out and Ainsley's Gourmet Express.

Harriott played the part of a GELF chief in the sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf in 1993. In 1998, for the show's 10th anniversary, Harriott presented a special edition of Can't Cook, Won't Cook called Can't Smeg, Won't Smeg with the cast of the show cooking a meal while remaining in character.

In 2000, Harriott made his debut on US television with The Ainsley Harriott Show, syndicated by Buena Vista Television, which ran for more than 100 episodes. Following this he went on to host Ready.. Set... Cook!, the US version of Ready Steady Cook. Ainsley was guest chef on Something for the Weekend on 10 May 2009 and 21 February 2010 alongside guests JLS. In February 2010, Harriott joined the morning show GMTV with Lorraine featuring cookery recipes. From 2002 until 2007, Harriott appeared in TV adverts for Fairy Liquid.

In September 2008, Harriott took part in the genealogy documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?. Harriott knew that his great-grandfather Ebenezer Harriott was in the colonial West India Regiment, and had assumed that they were descended from slaves. In Barbados, he confirmed that his great-grandfather had a distinguished military career, and learnt that he had fought on the side of the British in the Hut Tax War of 1898 – an increasingly violent series of protests against systems of taxation in Sierra Leone. Although Harriott had assumed that his great-great-grandfather, James Gordon Harriott, was a black slave, he was revealed to be the descendant of a long line of white slaveowners.

Harriott appeared in the final My Family Christmas special in 2010 "Mary Christmas". On 11 August 2015, he was announced as the second contestant of the thirteenth series of Strictly Come Dancing. On 5 September 2015 it was revealed Harriott was paired with professional dancer Natalie Lowe for the thirteenth series. He was the fourth contestant to be voted off and finished twelfth.

Harriott was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to broadcasting and the culinary arts.


Harriott is a best-selling author, publishing twelve books as well as numerous others in conjunction with his television shows. Including foreign-language translations, he has sold over 2 million books worldwide.

Other work

Harriott was the President of the Television and Radio Industries Club (TRIC) 2004–05 and presented their awards ceremony that year. He markets his own range of food, including couscous, risotto, soups and cereal bars.

Harriott played the role of the Narrator in The Rocky Horror Show at the New Theatre, Cardiff in March 2010, at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley in October 2010, and again at the Richmond Theatre in November 2010.

He made a guest appearance in the BBC radio comedy series Giles Wemmbley Hogg Goes Off as himself in 2006.

In 2022 Harriot, along with others including the DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles, helped to save his sister Jacqueline from drowning after she fell into a water feature at the Chelsea Flower Show.

In December 2023 Harriot won the Christmas special of The Masked Singer as Partridge (in a Pear Tree).

Personal life

Harriott married former costume designer Clare Fellows, the youngest sister of comedian and actor Graham Fellows. They have two children. In November 2012, the couple were reported to have separated and they remain on good terms.

Harriott is a supporter of Arsenal F.C.



  • 1999 Ainsley Harriott's Meals In Minutes (ISBN 0-563-55166-6)
  • 2000 Ainsley Harriott's Barbecue Bible (ISBN 0-563-55181-X)
  • 2002 Ainsley Harriott's Low-fat Meals In Minutes (ISBN 0-563-53480-X)
  • 2002 Ainsley Harriott's Gourmet Express (ISBN 0-563-48826-3)
  • 2003 Ainsley Harriott's All New Meals In Minutes (ISBN 0-563-48750-X)
  • 2003 Ainsley Harriott's Gourmet Express 2 (ISBN 0-563-48860-3)
  • 2003 The Top 100 Recipes from Ready Steady Cook (ISBN 0-563-48729-1)
  • 2004 Ainsley Harriott's Friends and Family Cookbook (ISBN 0-563-48756-9)
  • 2005 Ainsley's Ultimate Barbecue Bible (ISBN 0-563-52217-8)
  • 2006 Ainsley Harriott's All New Meals In Minutes (ISBN 0-563-49321-6)
  • 2006 Ainsley Harriott's Feel Good Cookbook (ISBN 0-563-49352-6)
  • 2008 Ainsley Harriott's Fresh and Fabulous Meals in Minutes (ISBN 1-84607-444-4)
  • 2009 Just Five Ingredients (ISBN 9780563539247)
  • 2011 My Kitchen Table: 100 Meals in Minutes (ISBN 1849901503)
  • 2012 My Kitchen Table: 100 Great Chicken Recipes (ISBN 1849903972)
  • 2019 Ainsley's Caribbean Kitchen (ISBN 9781529104257)
  • 2020 Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook (ISBN 9781529104677)
  • 2021 Ainsley’s Good Mood Food (ISBN 978-1529148312)
Collection James Bond 007


External links

  • Official website
  • Ainsley Harriott at IMDb

Text submitted to CC-BY-SA license. Source: Ainsley Harriott by Wikipedia (Historical)