It is not often you come across someone who not only has many strings to their bow, but one who plays each of them as well as the next. Tess Ward is one of those people. Having graduated from the lauded Le Cordon Bleu cookery school in 2012 and worked in the some of the capital’s finest kitchens, including The Harwood Arms and The Ritz, the chef spread her philosophy of the benefits of good eating through the pages of Glamour, where she is contributing editor, The Sunday Times, Vogue and The New Yorker. Her debut book The Naked Diet was released in 2015 – to much acclaim – she has walked the catwalk for Dolce & Gabbana, and has even hosted her own podcast, Down the Rabbit Hole with Tess Ward.
Her love of food stemmed from an early age helping her grandparents on their farm and going fishing with her grandfather. She had no trouble gutting a pheasant or deboning a fish. But it wasn’t until she was studying art history at Leeds university that she had a desire to take it to another level. ‘I fell in love with cooking at uni and wanted to grow my knowledge,’ she says. ‘I also had digestive issues and was keen to look at cooking in a different way.’
As a result, health and nutrition are at the core of Ward’s cooking, and her recipes champion simple, unprocessed ingredients and the benefits of eating the rainbow with phytonutrient dishes such as roasted cauliflower with sesame and pickled onions, and fish tacos with slaw and pumpkin and jalapeño salad. ‘It’s basically comfort food that’s kind of good for you,’ she says. ‘It’s putting the enjoyment and pleasure back into food.’
“Brands are interested in working with people who are creative and doing interesting things”
When it comes to her work in fashion, Ward says she is selective about who she works with. ‘I work with the brands that I want to wear, I’m always authentic to what my personal taste is. If you have a very clear view of what you want and you’re prepared to work for that, go for that because it can be very distracting if you listen too much to other people. You’ve really just got to stay true to what you want to do.’
And, for Ward, following her heart has helped her find success. Her views on everything from food and fashion to relationships and neuroscience, which she is currently studying at King’s College London, all feature on Down the Rabbit Hole with Tess Ward, which launched in 2019. So far, Ward has interviewed fellow chef Gizzi Erskine about how the way we produce and eat food could be killing us; scientist Tim Spector about gut health and fasting; Made In Chelsea’s Sophie Hermann about the impact of lockdown on relationships and Laura Whitmore on feminism. This eclectic mix of people and topics really highlights Wards’ creative approach to life and has consequently attracted a global audience, with season two rumoured to be on the horizon.
“My recipes are basically comfort food that’s kind of good for you. It’s putting the enjoyment and pleasure back into food”
Elsewhere, she has found her experience as a food consultant, working for high-profile brands such as Fortnum & Mason, Itsu and Grey Goose, surprisingly freeing. ‘Brands are interested in working with people who are creative and doing interesting things,’ she says. ‘There’s a more organic relationship developing between the creative industries and fashion brands. I don’t ever go onto a shoot and they say, “this is what we’re going to do.” They’re really receptive to making it personal to me, which is just really exciting because you feel involved in the process.’
Ward is certainly always looking ahead. Although she can’t confirm or deny, she has hinted that a TV show is in the works. And as someone with heaps of charisma, beauty and confidence, it seems like the ideal next step. And regardless, Ward’s refreshing outlook means little will stand in her way.