As skilled with a saucepan as she is a pin-sharp one-liner, Lennie Ware’s later life success as a podcasting sensation probably doesn’t come as a surprise to those that know her.
The 70-year-old social worker has become an accidental cultural icon in recent years, owing to her role as resident chef-come-co-host on Table Manners, the cult podcast in which she and daughter Jessie invite names as famous as Emily Ratajkowski, Dolly Parton and Kylie Minogue (who loved her sit-down with the Wares so much that she came back for more) round for lunch.
Despite her astronomical success – which has since spawned live tours, TV appearances and most recently, a cookbook revealing the culinary secrets that keep Hollywood stars and British politicians alike pulling up a chair – she doesn’t plan on giving up her work as a social worker anytime soon; telling Marie Claire UK’s Editor Holly Rains, “The podcast was never meant to be a career. It was just meant to be something we did.”
One of the trailblazing women we’re spotlighting as part of our Driven series in partnership with Ford, Lennie tells Holly of how she moved from a sideliner at the stove to the podcast’s co-host, who her dream dinner guests are, and what it is that drives her to make the world a more equitable place.
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Though growing up, her mother wanted her to work at Marks & Spencer “because I’d be able to access all the discounts they give their staff”, Ware has spent most of her life working with children and families.
“I heard a talk about social work at school and thought: that sounds interesting [and] it’s not boring. I’m passionate about children’s rights and achieving good outcomes. I feel very satisfied with my job, and it’s been endlessly amazing and interesting,” she says.
Her secret to fitting it all in?
“I do moan a bit,” she quips.
It’s this disarming, down-to-earth charm that’s gotten Table Manners guests to reveal everything from losing their trunks in an Olympic pool (Tom Daley) to whether they’d be running again in London’s mayoral election (Sadiq Khan).
She may not be trained as a journalist, but she does a better job than most of us when it comes to getting the scoop. Is there anything she can’t do, we hear you cry?
Nope, sorry. In addition to all of the above, Ware has finessed the recipe for the universe’s most delicious matzah balls (her words, though Jamie Oliver has confirmed it), cooked fish for Kylie Minogue, and spent two years perfecting a cookbook full of her A-list approved recipes.
Any on-air culinary disasters she blames exclusively on Jessie, who, she tells Holly, was responsible for the now-iconic Table Manners episode that left fellow musician George Ezra having to resort to takeout.
“Jessie had marinated some short ribs – which were actually long ribs because they hadn’t been cut. And they were inedible. We actually had to order in. We couldn’t eat them.”
Luckily, she adds: “He was the sweetest, loveliest person and he didn’t really mind.”
Having now hosted 150 famous names and counting at her Clapham kitchen table, does she still have a dream dinner guest?
“Well, there’s two people we would really love,” she reveals. “Marcus Rashford, because I’m a Man United supporter and he is wonderful, and I think we’d learn a lot – we’d love him to come with his mum, that would be great – and of course, Barbara Streisand. That’s the big goal.”
Now why do we get the impression that it won’t be too long until the two megastars are seated around Ware’s kitchen table, plates primed and ready for seconds?
To find out more about our Driven campaign in partnership with Ford – and the brilliant women we’re spotlighting – visit driven-uk.com.