Dress: Urban Outfitters
Bracelets and Ring: UNO de 50
Tess Ward’s ability to create delicious, healthy meals using stripped down ingredients has captured the world. She was trained at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and has used her passion for clean eating to produce two cookbooks, The Naked Diet and The Naked Cookbook. She has hosted private dinners for the fashion industry’s elite including Alice Temperley, Michael Kors and Mulberry.
It was a beautiful summer’s day, as I looked out of the window from a Victorian period apartment offering impressive views of London against a backdrop of endless blue sky. I was waiting for the arrival of Tess Ward, chef, food blogger and author extraordinaire.
What sets Tess apart from most of the other food bloggers is prestigious training, she studied at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, she has also worked in the kitchens of River Cottage and The Ritz.
In person,Tess Ward is absolutely striking. Her sky-blue eyes shone brightly against her dewy golden skin, her short blonde hair coiffed into a sleek bob. Dressed in a floral Bardot top that clung to her petite frame perfectly, paired with a simple white denim skirt and white sneakers, Tess looked like an off-duty model.
She pulled me into a warm embrace as I invited her in, making herself comfortable straight away. She lay across the black leather settee, and asked: “You don’t mind if I lie down do you?” We chatted about our feminine struggles with periods and our wanderlust to travel while I made Tess a green tea. I loved how frank she was. I liked her immediately.
Tess had an idyllic childhood and spent much of her time on her grandfather’s farm. Every bit the tomboy, she loved running around and learnt to gut pheasants and fish. Yet, what makes Tess most nostalgic are flapjacks.
She reminisces, “It was pretty much the only thing I was interested in cooking when I was small. The smell of hot butter and sweet sticky golden syrup is one thing I will always associate with my childhood. It reassures me. When I had cravings at university and didn’t have time to make them I would just melt golden syrup and butter together and eat that.”
Tess studied History of Art at the University of Leeds; it was here that she developed her love for cooking.
She recalled, “Cooking is amazingly therapeutic – you can just zone out the rest of the world. I try to be mindful of the amount of meat I eat for environmental reasons but also I just love cooking with vegetables, they don’t stink out the house or make mess like meat juices do.”
During this time, Tess learnt the art of throwing a lavish dinner party and lists her key rules.
She smiles and tells me, “We had pretty great dinners. The most memorable involved curry, burnt cork bottles and lots of wine!”
She continues, “The key is to make sure you have enough nibbles when people arrive and always enough to drink. It’s ideal to cook a dish that isn’t time sensitive – if you can, prep most of it ahead, or leave it in the oven, then you can enjoy your evening with your guests, which is the main thing. Fries I will always love though.”
Jumper: Maison Kitsune
Shirt: Millie Mackintosh
Skirt: Scotch + Soda
It was surprising to hear that despite her student budget, Tess always made sure she prioritised good quality produce.
She revealed: “Shopping at markets is ideal. You get good, fresh ingredients and it’s half the price of supermarkets. For main items like meat and fish, I would always buy the best quality and just eat less. I lived right near a fab international supermarket, which was the first time I encountered date syrup and okra.”
In an environment that is renowned for binging on junk food, Tess chose to go against the grain and commit to a clean, healthy lifestyle.
She explained: “The difference in how you feel when you eat well is huge. In my last year especially, I wanted to do everything I could to remain focused and clear-headed for my work. If you eat well most of the time, your tastebuds change. The idea of eating a crap quality burger bums me out.”
Even though Tess started experimenting with cooking while at uni, it wasn’t until she went travelling around Europe in a VW Camper Van with her boyfriend at the time, that she realised cooking was her passion and something she wanted to pursue.
Tess smiled with a glint in her eyes as she reminisced fondly of her adventures, “Eating fantastic Italian and Spanish food, swimming in the sea every day was the catalyst for my career. The whole trip is a blur of deliciousness.”
It wasn’t long before Tess enrolled at the famed Le Cordon Bleu, that led to opportunities working in the kitchens at The Ritz and River Cottage. However, when she was 18-years-old, Tess contracted a parasite in India that left her exhausted and unable to sustain the long hours required in a kitchen. It was fight or flight, Tess began writing a food column for a magazine and wrote her debut book, The Naked Diet.
Dans La Vie Rira Sugawara
Tess revealed: “The Naked Diet is more about the philosophy around cooking. I’m all about cooking and eating for pleasure, using the best ingredients you can and enjoying the food. I think it’s important to know how to make easy swaps and choices that serve us. A massive slice of chocolate cake is needed once in awhile.”
Suddenly, Tess picked up a packet of Graze nuts on the table and inspected the list of ingredients. She nodded solemnly, then said: “Always read the label before you buy. These are supposedly healthy but contain maltodextrin and palm oil – even the ‘healthy’ foods can contain things that are bad.”
Throughout her career, Tess has had some incredible experiences as a creative consultant and a freelance food and travel writer. She has worked with the most renowned brands such as Fortnum and Mason, Itsu, and Grey Goose, as well as hosting VIP dinners for the fashion elite; Alice Temperley, Michael Kors and Mulberry, along with travelling to fantastic locations.
Despite her great successes, Tess has remained committed to her ethos. She said: “Having a platform to make a change is the most important thing to me and sharing food that inspires people to cook.”