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Ainsley Harriott

Ainsley Harriott.jpg
Harriott in 2007
Ainsley Denzil Dubriel Harriott

(1957-02-28) 28 February 1957 (age 66)
Paddington, London, England
Education Westminster Kingsway College
Occupation Chef, television presenter, entertainer
Years active 1988–present
Clare Fellows
(m. 1989; sep. 2012)
Children 2
  • Chester Harriott (father)
  • Peppy Strudwick (mother)

Ainsley Denzil Dubriel Harriott MBE (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 on the set of Ready Steady Cook, August 2004

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 Ready Steady Cook, 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 at the Taste of London, June 2010

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.

On 23 May 2022 Harriot saved his elder sister Jacqueline from drowning, after she fell head-first into a narrow water feature in the BBC Studios exhibition garden, at the Chelsea Flower Show. She was dragged to safety by a group of people including DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles.

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.


Year(s) Title Role
1988 Hale & Pace Extra
1990–1991 Davro Extra
1992–1996 Good Morning with Anne and Nick Resident chef
1993 Red Dwarf Gelf Chief
1994–2010 Ready Steady Cook Chef / presenter
1995–2000 Can't Cook, Won't Cook Presenter
1997 Ainsley's Barbecue Bible Presenter
1998 Ainsley's Meals in Minutes Presenter
1999 Ainsley's Big Cook Out Presenter
2000–2001 Gourmet Express Presenter
2000–2001 Ready.. Set... Cook! Presenter
2000 The Ainsley Harriott Show Presenter
2003 The Mark Steel Lectures Robert Boyle
2005–2007 City Hospital Presenter
2010, 2017 Lorraine Guest chef
2013 Great British Food Revival Presenter
2014 Ainsley Eats the Streets Presenter
2015 Ainsley Harriott's Street Food Presenter
Strictly Come Dancing Contestant; 12th place
Len and Ainsley's Big Food Adventure Presenter, with Len Goodman
2016 The Best Dishes Ever Narrator
2018 Costa Del Celebrity Main role
2018–present My World Kitchen Narrator
2019 Ainsley's Caribbean Kitchen Presenter
Ainsley's Market Menu Presenter
2020 Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook Presenter
Ainsley's Food We Love Presenter
Ainsley's Festive Food We Love Presenter
Michael McIntyre's The Wheel Himself
2021 Ainsley's Good Mood Food Presenter
Ainsley’s Christmas Good Mood Food Presenter
2022 Best of British By the Sea Co-presenter, with Grace Dent
Ainsley's World Cup Flavours Presenter

See also

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