In September of last year I was very lucky to be invited to take part in a television programme here in the UK. It's called Masterchef, and the wonderful cooks below were competing for the title week by week, undergoing a gruelling set of challenges and providing some fabulous food for those fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of all their hard work.
This episode coincided with the end of The Jane Austen Festival, and many of the attendees were asked to come along and enjoy some of the food with a Regency theme. The chefs were divided into two teams and they were competing for the chance to cook with top chef, Jason Atherton.
The event took place at The Royal Crescent Hotel, and the chefs cooked outside in tents erected on what was known as the Cresent Fields in Jane Austen's day.
I was so lucky to be invited to the dinner that took place next day, and meet amongst other distinguished guests, one of my favourite actors, Adrian Lukis, who you will all recognise from the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice. Sigh...I have to say, he's just as gorgeous!
The other guests were Richard Knight (the Jane Austen Society) and his wife Phillipa, Jackie Herring (the Jane Austen Festival Director) and her husband, Caroline Langrishe, (a very well-known actress from stage and screen), John Cullum (the High Sheriff of Bath, and also Jamie Cullum's Dad), and Paula Byrne (the writer of Jane Austen and the Theatre).
Paula Byrne told me all about her new book which sounds fascinating, a biography on Jane Austen which I'm looking forward to adding to my collection. Here we all are enjoying champagne before the dinner, and finding our places at the table.
When I agreed to take part, I had little idea what was involved, and I must admit I was petrified. I cannot imagine what those poor chefs went through or how nervous they must have been having to work in a kitchen they'd never been in before, and under such pressure to produce food of the highest standard. I have to say it was delicious, and every course was divine - five in all! Dinner was served in a beautiful room at The Royal Crescent Hotel, and there was lots of laughter between courses when the cameras were off.
Here I am trying to look as if I know what I'm talking about - I'm not sure if anything I said made any sense, but I did enjoy it all very much, and I felt very privileged to be part of such a wonderful dinner.