Jessie Ware talks to us about the Table Manners podcast tour, her Kylie duet and being 18 per cent Scottish

The podcast has had over 30 million downloads

Published 5th Nov 2021
Updated 18 th Sep 2023

It turns out that singer songwriter, UNICEF Ambassador and podcaster, Jessie Ware, is 18 per cent Scottish.

That’s according to an ancestry test that her husband gave her as an anniversary present.

“Not the sexiest gift”, she says. “But I understand now why I get on so well with Scottish people”.

This is one of the many reasons she’s looking forward to the Table Manners tour, which has its first stop at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall on Thursday 28 April.

If you’re not au-fait with the podcast, it’s been running since 2017, and is onto its 12th series.

The premise is simple. Jessie and her mum, Lennie, a social worker, host a celebrity in Jessie’s London home.

It’s like Come Dine with Me, but extremely starry, and they’ve wined and dined A-listers including Paul McCartney, Nigella Lawson, Tom Jones, Ed Sheeran and Dolly Parton. They whip up a delicious spread, cooked to the guest’s specific dietary requirements, and there’s lots of lovely relaxed foodie (and non-food-related) chat that makes it almost like a therapy session. People tend to open up, when they’re being nurtured by lots of lovely grub and Champagne.

Downloads have now exceeded 30 million.

“We don’t take it for granted that it keeps growing and people stay with us”, says Ware, 37, who is whispering to me from her London home, with the youngest of her three children sleeping beside her. “You either like us or you don’t, and if you’re going to listen to 12 series you’re basically part of the family. We pride ourselves on the fact that we don’t interrogate. There’s something highly unprofessional about it which people seem to like”.

There was definitely a learning curve in the first series, when they realised that slurping and munching noises weren’t for every listener.

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“That’s a job for our editor and producer,” says Ware. “We worked it out early on, after we had Will Young eating a tarte tatin and we realised that, as much as Will’s tarte tatin eating is rather attractive, some people don’t want that and aren’t into ASMR. We get a load of the chat out the way before we eat, so it’s not in your ear the whole time. That would be quite disgusting”.

Ware’s favourite interviewees and guests have included actor Stanley Tucci - “suave, brilliant, funny” - and Canadian actor, director and writer, Dan Levy, who she describes as “incredibly special”.

“We also just had Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix on and she was fantastic, “ says Ware. “She’d just come from a massive shoot and my mum made her favourite meal and you could see she was so happy, having some home-cooked roast chicken. She was exhausted but still such a joy”.

Food can also be very persuasive.

They cooked Kylie a nice bit of halibut and, soon after, Ware and Minogue were recording a duet together, the disco-tastic Kiss of Life, out now.

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“That’s how we met, I dug my claws into her to seal the deal that maybe we’d be able to work together”, says Ware, who released her fourth album, What’s Your Pleasure? in June 2020 and is currently in rehearsals for her tour, which will be coming to Glasgow. “She’s really lovely, brilliant and professional, I did the video with her and just the way she works, I’ve got a lot to learn”.

Although the mother and daughter team get on with most guests, they’ve had a few that have been prickly, or slower to open up.

“You’re not always going to be best friends, but that’s part of the excitement. It’s like a blind date”, says Ware.

Most of their dinner guests can’t resist the rapport between the two, which seems to put everyone at ease.

“We’re very similar, incredibly close and get on really well, I never thought I’d work with mum but we try to make it not feel like work”, says the youngest Ware. “We just went on holiday together with the kids and didn’t talk about the podcast at all. I’ve always been very proud of her and I’ve always been impressed by how she can strike up a conversation with anybody”.

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The pair have already done a few live recordings of the podcast, which debuted and sold out at the Edinburgh Festival back in 2019.

“We did that as a little test, to see whether we enjoyed it and if it would work, and it did. It was easy and lovely to meet the audience,” says Ware.

Back in 2020, they were supposed to tour properly, alongside the release of the Table Manners cookbook, though Covid put a stop to that. This is their second attempt at taking the show on the road. It will follow the podcast format, with surprise guests and a bit of audience participation.

“If they listen to the podcast, they’ll have opinions they’d like to share”, Ware says. “It’s new for us, so anything can happen. We usually like to make food and if you’re lucky you might get a bit, but I don’t know how that’ll work with bloody Covid. If we can give them a little canape, we will”.

Ware hopes that she’ll also be able to explore our restaurants while she’s in the Scottish capital.

“I think I’ve played The Queen’s Hall before, and I adore Edinburgh - the people, the food, the streets”, she says.

On previous visits, she’s eaten at Elliott’s and The Lookout, where, she says, “we had this amazing alfresco meal and a fabulous time''.

She's definitely 18 per cent Scottish.

Tickets to the Table Manners with Jessie & Lennie Ware tour are available now,

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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