Appropriately, as the Chinese New Year is ushered in, my drawing of popular TV Chef Ken Hom arrived back, signed with a complimentary card attached wishing me New Years greetings. Widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest authorities on Oriental cooking, Ken is a regular on our TV screens.
Born in Tucson to Chinese parents he grew up in Chicago. He didn’t find the American food agreeable so his mother would send him off to school with a flask of hot rice and stir-fried vegetables.
At the age of 11 he started working in his uncle’s restaurant and ran cooking lessons in his native Chinese cuisine to pay for his university fees when he moved to California, eventually swaping his history studies to follow his heart at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Ken’s British connection came in 1982, when he was chosen, after a two-year global search for the BBC’s new Chinese cooking series.
Numerous programmes, books and accolades have followed since. He opened MEE at the Belmont Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, the city’s first luxury pan-Asian restaurant, winning a Michelin star in it’s first year. Ken divides his time as a global culinary citizen between residences in France and Thailand, but is a frequent visitor to the UK where he has a number of business interests including his wok empire.
I sent this drawing to his Hampshire headquarters, managing to coincide with one of visits.
My lifelong interest in TV cooking shows began way back in the sixties when television was, like me, in its infancy in New Zealand. The very first celebrity chef was Graham Kerr, who had moved to the Antipodes from London to take up a role as the chief catering adviser for the Royal NZ Airforce. When ‘the box’ was introduced in 1960, he first appeared on a programme called EGGS WITH FLIGHT LIEUTENANT KERR before it evolved into the popular ENTERTAINING WITH KERR, which I watched religiously, before attempting to channel Graham and his culinary creations in the family kitchen, much to my mother’s alarm, who advised me to draw instead.
Graham later moved to Australia, then Canada, where he became a global superstar with the show THE GALLOPING GOURMET, one of the most viewed cooking programmes on the planet, earning two Emmy nominations. The term ‘Galloping Gourmet’ originated from a book, co-authored with wine expert Len Evans in 1967, when they completed a 35-day trek around the world’s finest restaurants.
When I experienced another burst of appetite for celebrity chefs – in a sketching sense, not cannibalistic – earlier this year, resulting in a new batch of renderings being produced of my favourite cooking people, I just had to include Graham. Now, aged 84, he has retired and living in Washington State on America’s Pacific Northwest. I sent him this sketch, which he immediately signed and returned, much to my delight.
One of my absolute favourite actors is John Nettles, who I have had the pleasure of meeting at a couple of Theatre Press nights in London over the past decade. If his role as Jim Bergerac in the Jersey-based TV crime drama BERGERAC made him a household name in the UK in the 1980’s, his follow-up policeman DCI Tom Barnaby in the murder, mystery series MIDSOMER MURDERS made him a global household name.
After his final appearance in February 2011 he had the recurring role of Ray Penvenen in the second series of POLDARK. I must say Midsomer’s hasn’t been the same since he left but all the reruns have been welcomed.
Now I did this portrait of John as Tom, but how to get it signed? Then I discovered he was a guest at the Carols by Candlelight fundraiser for the Royal Brompton Hospital at St Luke’s in Chelsea just before Christmas. So I left it with the very friendly folk at the church with a stamped envelope and, to my delight, it arrived back last week with an immaculate autograph and dedication.
Popular British TV stars Robert Glenister and Kris Marshall join Christian Slater in the first major revival in nearly a decade of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS at London’s Playhouse theatre. Set in the cut-throat world of a Chicago real-estate office, it’s a fast talking, expletive-filled depiction of sleazy salesmen scrapping it out. Robert plays the ‘spitting, hissing’, angry Moss and Kris is the uptight office manager, Williamson. I met both actors after last Saturday nights performance at the stage door, where they signed my sketch for me.
American actress and singer Amber Riley completed her West End debut in the hit musical DREAMGIRLS at London’s Savoy theatre last Saturday night. After receiving critical acclaim for her portrayal of lead Effie White, Amber won this year’s Olivier Award for Best actress in a Musical. The thirty-one year-old is best known for her TV role as Mercedes Jones on the Fox comedy-drama series GLEE for which she won a Screen Actors Guild Award. She also won season 17 of DANCING WITH THE STARS in 2013 and has been nominated for the Grammy three times. It took me a few attempts to get this drawing signed. For one reason or another I keep missing Amber at the stage door, but finally, on the last night after her final performance I got the graph.
Bryan Cranston made his London stage debut as Howard Beale, the mad prophet of the airways to rave reviews in NETWORK on the Lyttelton boards at the National Theatre this month.
Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant script for the Oscar winning 1976 film, Bryan plays the aging news anchor who threatens to kill himself on live TV, becoming an instant crazed celebrity guru yelling the iconic slogan, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
Bryan won a Tony for his portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson in ALL THE WAY on Broadway and is the winner of six Emmys and 2 Golden Globe Awards for his celebrated role as Walter White, the chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-lord in the hit television show BREAKING BAD. He also earned BAFTA and Oscar nominations for TRUMBO in 2015.
Bryan signed my sketch at the National Theatre stage door last week.
Rodney Bewes died yesterday, six days short of his 80th birthday. He appeared in a number of British TV shows, including DR WHO, but it was his role as Bob Ferris in THE LIKELY LADS that made him a household name. In 2013 he returned to the London stage as The Marshall in Peter Ustinov’s THE MOMENT OF TRUTH at the Southwark Playhouse where he kindly signed this sketch for me. RIP Rodney.
American actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth was in London last month for her one night only engagement at the Palladium as part of her brief European Tour. I had missed her a couple of times before, so was very keen to get a drawing signed. I did this quick portrait based on her poster and dropped it into the new and impressive stage door office at the theatre, fingers crossed. Kristin won the Tony Award in 1999 for her portrayal of the title character’s sister, Sally Brown in YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN. She also originated the role of Glinda in the musical WICKED on Broadway, earning another Tony nom. The cast recording won the 2005 Grammy. On the small screen, Kristin is best known for the reoccurring role as media consultant Annabeth Schott in THE WEST WING and Olive Snook in the comedy-drama PUSHING DAISIES for which she won the 2009 Emmy Award. As you can see my mission was complete when the signed and dedicated sketch arrived in the mail yesterday.
After a ten year hiatus, Christian Slater has returned to the West End in the revival of David Mamet’s landmark 1983 drama GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, which is currently in previews, opening on 9 November at the Playhouse Theatre. Last seen in the business satire SWIMMING WITH SHARKS at the Vaudeville in 2007, Christian made his London stage debut as the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy in Dale Wasserman’s adaption of Ken Kesey’s cult novel ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST at the Gielgud in 2004. He reprised the role for a return season two years later at the Garrick. Christian very kindly met a few of us waiting at the Playhouse stage door after the first GLENGARRY matinee and signed my CUCKOO’s NEST sketch.
The STRICTLY COME DANCING judge Craig Revel Horwood is dividing his time these days between the popular BBC show at Elstree Studios and his role as the tyrannical orphanage manager Miss Hannigan in the musical ANNIE at the Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End. He took over from role from Miranda Hart in mid-September for a limited 10 week run (minus Saturdays).
The Australian-born British dancer, choreographer and theatre director’s West End credits include CATS, MISS SAIGON, CHESS, CRAZY FOR YOU and SUNSET BOULEVARD. But it is his STRICTLY appearance as one of the original and most formidable judges since the show’s inception in 2004 that TV viewers know him best.
In 2012, commenting on KImberley Walsh’s dance routine he said it was “indecent, improper, absolute filth… and I loved it!” Craig is also known for his catch phrases. A common utterance is ‘Fab-u-Lous’ with the syllables of each word articulated in three separate words. He included it in the dedication on this signed sketch I drew of him as Miss H, left at the theatre last week.