The doyen of British baking Dame Mary Berry has said she is “proud and honoured” to be made a Dame Commander for a culinary career spanning more than 50 years – and plans to celebrate with a sandwich.
The 86-year-old queen of cooking was awarded the honour, which also recognises her charity work, by the Prince of Wales during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.
Dame Mary famously baked alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a special Christmas show and she praised Kate as a “remarkable, enthusiastic cook”.
When asked about her plans to celebrate her damehood, she replied: “We’re going home for a sandwich and the children are coming tonight.”
Following recent surgery after breaking her hip in a fall during the summer, the former Bake Off judge appeared spritely and was joined by her husband Paul Hunnings.
Dame Mary said after the ceremony: “I’m extremely proud and honoured, I just wish my parents were here – they’re looking down and my children are quite excited.
“My aim is to pass on the skill that I love so much, because everybody has to cook each day, whether it’s a student or whatever it is, you’ve got to feed yourself so why not learn to do it well and enjoy it.”
The television cook became a household name to a new generation of cake lovers thanks to her role as a judge, alongside Paul Hollywood, in the popular show The Great British Bake Off.
“I thoroughly enjoyed being on Bake Off, I was there seven years, we were a great team Paul Hollywood, Mel and Sue – we enjoyed every minute,” she said.
In the festive BBC show A Berry Royal Christmas, the celebrity cook joined William and Kate on a number of royal visits and the couple showed off their culinary skills under Dame Mary’s watchful eye.
She added: “Kate is a remarkable, enthusiastic cook – she’ll have a go at anything. She made a beautiful roulade and William had a go too and she was icing cakes and was an absolute natural, and I like the idea that she’ll seek to do things well.”
As a child Dame Mary was not academically gifted but in domestic science lessons she discovered her love of cooking and pursued it as a career.
After studying cooking in France and the UK, she worked for a number of food industry bodies and got her big break when she stepped in to write the recipe pages of Housewife magazine when its cookery editor was away.
Her first cookbook, The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, was published in 1970 and she has gone on to write more than 50 others which have sold millions around the world.
Regular appearances on television and radio followed and she has remained a favourite with audiences down the decades.
In her latest BBC series, which has the working title Mary Berry’s Fantastic Feasts, the television chef will come to the rescue of novice cooks hoping to impress a loved one with a lavish meal.
Speaking about positive encouragement from the public, she added: “A highlight is when I’m in a supermarket and someone just touches my shoulder and says ‘I made that lemon drizzle cake and my family love it’ or ‘your lasagne is the best’, those sorts of things give one a lift in the day, and it’s nice of them to say it.”
Dame Mary has been married to her retired antiquarian bookseller husband since 1966. They have two grown-up children, Thomas and Annabel.
Their youngest son, William, was killed in a car crash at the age of 19.
Following his death Dame Mary became a patron of the charity Child Bereavement UK.
She said: “I was lucky to have a very supportive family but there are many people who are not in that position.”
Dame Mary said about the charity: “And I think, whether it’s the siblings who are left or the husband or the wife, it’s a hand to hold and to realise other people are in the same boat.”