Jaffrey, born in India and based in Britain and the United States,
has had a remarkably varied career encompassing film and television
acting and some directing and writing. In Britain, it is for her
role as a presenter of television cookery programmes that she is
most highly renowned and respected.
Jaffrey has worked largely in cinema with prominent roles in films
such as the Merchant Ivory Production, Shakespeare Wallah
(1965), for which she was awarded a prize at Venice, and The
Assam Garden (1985). Her most prolific role as an actor in recent
British television has been the drama series, Firm Friends
(ITV, 1992 and 1994). Jaffrey plays Jayshree Kapor, cleaning lady
turned business partner to white, middle-class Rose (Billie Whitelaw),
in a show that is unusual in representing a racially mixed society
without treating this as an issue. Whilst many of the productions
Jaffrey has performed in draw on her cultural background, Firm
Friends is also involved in unashamedly drawing on her culinary
image--the business Jayshree initiates is selling cooked foods.
Jaffrey as an actor has not surpassed her popularity as a food presenter.
Jaffrey's route into presenting BBC food shows was less than orthodox.
Whilst a drama student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in
London, she wrote to her mother begging her to send simple recipes.
In India, her mother obliged, and thus Jaffrey learnt to cook by
correspondence, although this was never intended as a career move.
She was drawn into cooking as a business, after friends implored
her to write a cookery book. Her immense success and appeal may
be attributed to her flamboyant yet sensitive style of presentation
and the way she has revolutionised and demystified Indian cooking--a
cuisine particularly favoured by the British. By introducing authentic
Indian cuisine to the British kitchen, Jaffrey has radically altered
the way British people cook, eat and think about Indian food. Indeed
it is fair to suggest that the recent ready availability of oriental
spices and other Indian ingredients in British supermarkets is a
direct result of Madhur Jaffrey's television programmes.
inspirational presentation of food in the three BBC series--Madhur
Jaffrey's Indian Cookery (1982); Madhur Jaffrey's Far Eastern
Cookery (1989); and Madhur Jaffrey's Flavour's Of India (1995)--is
equaled by the warmth and charm of its presenter. Whilst her shows
have been educational from a culinary perspective, they have also
proved influential within television culture, as Madhur Jaffrey
has always sought to contextualise the cookery by presenting it
in the appropriate geographical location. In liberating cookery
from the studio-bound format, these shows not only offer the viewing
pleasures of a travel show, but also work to redefine popular perceptions
of Eastern cultures. Jaffrey focuses on the recipes and their ingredients
by presenting a variety of people--mainly cooks, professional and
otherwise--and by exploring a wealth of market-places, local lifestyles
and regional religions.
the gastronomic tour format may no longer be considered revolutionary,
as it has developed into a standard set-up for the presentation
of food, Jaffrey remains a guru of British television. Her series
are particularly noteworthy for their stylish and sophisticated
production values and their attention to detail--for example, Madhur
dresses to reflect the cultural background of specific recipes.
The greatest appeal of her cookery shows lies in her vibrant approach
and personality, with which she has spiced up British television.
Madhur Jaffrey has argued that she sees no conflict in her professional
double life, as she treats the presentation of food as a performance
equal to any acting role.
Photo courtesy of the British Film Institute
JAFFREY. Born in Delhi, India. Attended local schools in Delhi;
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London. Settled in England to train
as a drama student and subsequently appeared in numerous stage and
film productions before establishing reputation as leading authority
on Indian food, presenting her own cookery programmes on television
and writing best-selling cookery books.
Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery
1989 Madhur Jaffrey's Far Eastern Cookery
1992, 1994 Firm Friends
1995 Madhur Jaffrey's Flavours of India
Wallah, 1965; Autobiography of a Princess, 1975.
Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking. New York: Knopf,
Jaffrey's Indian Cookery. London: BBC Publications, 1982.
Jaffrey's a Taste of the Far East. New York: Carol Southern,