Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones: ‘We wooed each other with food’

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Sophie Ellis-Bextor And Richard Jones: ‘We Wooed Each Other With Food’ Sophie Ellis-Bextor And Richard Jones: ‘We Wooed Each Other With Food’
Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones
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By Lauren Taylor, PA

Think Sophie Ellis-Bextor and you probably start humming early-Noughties hit Murder On The Dancefloor, or remember the unadulterated joy she brought during lockdown with her live ‘kitchen discos’ on Instagram – performing tunes in sequinned outfits in her family playroom, often stepping over toys, children and wires.

But you may not know that her talents extend to the kitchen too.

In fact, when she first met her husband Richard Jones (bassist from pop band The Feeling), a mutual love of cooking was one of things they bonded over.


“We wooed each other with food really,” says Ellis-Bextor – her ability to cook a great piece of meat even coaxed Jones off the pescatarian wagon on an early date in 2002 (“I gently persuaded him to start eating meat…”).

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“She cooked me duck!” Jones interludes.

“Because he already ate fish, I thought maybe we can go to the surface of the water,” says the 43-year-old singer, laughing.

For their first Valentine’s Day together, Jones rustled up a lobster casserole. “We like cooking for each other but if that’s happening, [Sophie] doesn’t like me touching anything she’s cooking,” says Jones.

“No, that’s annoying,” Ellis-Bextor jibes.

“A bit like if we DJ together and she’s doing a mix and I reach over and tweak it slightly – she’s like, stop it,” Jones continues.

(Matt Crossick/PA)

Still, being a good cook isn’t that different to being a good musician, insists Jones. “Putting in various elements, like the drums, bass, percussion and vocals when you’re building a song, a meal is very much the same kind of thing, you’re building around the palate from the bottom end and the bass notes to the top end, where the vocals are in the spice and acids and vinegars and lemon juice.”

“You’re saying my voice is like vinegar?” Ellis Jones, interjects, laughing.

“Like a fine wine,” Jones reasons with a smile.

Naturally, music is always playing in their kitchen. Definitely not their own though: “That would be like having a mirror opposite you as you cook,” says Ellis-Bextor. But their debut cookbook – Love. Food. Family. – comes complete with playlists they love to cook to.

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They got married in Italy in 2005 and became parents shortly after. Now they have five – Sonny, 18, Kit, 13, Ray, 10, Jessie, six, and three-year-old Mickey – so there are many mouths to feed.


“As everything evolved and we had more and more kids, [cooking] sort of became part of our family, like how do we feed this massive family every day?” Jones says, adding that they “both find cooking relaxing and therapeutic”.

Big, generous, easy-to-make family feasts are the running theme the cookbook.

“I think the more mouths you’re feeding, the less of a café you can run – I’m not cooking different things for different people,” says Ellis-Bextor. “We have one vegetarian, so we always have to make that tweak. Outside of that, we have to do something we think as many people as possible will eat.”

They’ve had their share of fussy-eaters too. “For us, a successful meal is when most people eat most of the food. It’s quite unusual to have something that absolutely everybody eats. Children can love something one week and then the next day decide it’s not their thing anymore.

“You just have to let a lot roll of your shoulders really, but when I cook for the kids, if they don’t enjoy what I’ve made, I take it like a little dagger in my heart,” she adds with a laugh. “Richard’s much better at being like, ‘Tell me why you didn’t like it’, and, ‘How about if I did it like that?’

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“We just try and get them to understand that it doesn’t always have to be in their top five meals of all time. Sometimes it’s going to be, ‘That did the job and that was tasty’.”

The cookbook is a real reflection of how the family eat at home (think easy sausage traybake, chicken stir-fry, spag bol). Some recipes are hand-me-downs from family members (Nanny Claire’s Yorkshire pudding and Grandma Janet’s spatchcock chicken), and many are inspired by family holidays abroad (pistachio baklava with honey and orange syrup, or borscht).

Jones calls trips away with five kids “a logistical nightmare” and holidays haven’t been without small disasters. “On our last trip, we realised when we landed that we’d left not one, but two of the kids’ entire wardrobes at the airport,” Ellis-Bextor recalls.

“You have to learn to relax when the family gets bigger,” she adds. “You have to let go of being across everything, because it’s not really physically possible. My motto is ‘something will happen’ – so as long as the big headline stuff of everything is happy and healthy is right there, it doesn’t matter.”

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The same goes in the kitchen – especially when five kids get involved. The musical mum believes a passion for cooking can be instilled from a young age – “if you’re cooking in front of them and taking about the food and showing them, you’re getting them interested in the alchemy of making stuff.

“If there’s a little spark of passion there, just build on it. Even my three-year-old, I can’t start making something without him saying, ‘I’m going to help’. On Saturday I do pancakes, and obviously he’s not going to be super helpful but I give him his own little mixing bowl, his own flour, his own egg to crack, and [let him] have some fun.”

Their cookbook has a section dedicated to dishes the kids love (and could even cook themselves) – the ultimate fish finger sandwich and ‘you should be in bed’ tomato toast. Homemade pizza nights are a staple in their household too. “Rather than getting them premade, it’s so easy to just roll the dough and get them involved, choosing their toppings,” says Jones.

The children also make their own Japanese-inspired maki rolls. “Our maki comes out looking really wonky and weird but the kids have lots of fun rolling up and it tastes the same,” Jones adds. “Anything like that, where they can get a bowl out and play around, it becomes like playtime.”

And the mess? That’s inevitable, he says. “Sushi rice everywhere!”

(Hamlyn/PA)

Love. Food. Family: Recipes From The Kitchen Disco by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones is published by Hamlyn, priced £20. Food photography by Issy Croker.

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