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Having lived a life every bit as colourful as the clothes she wears in Channel Four’s The Great British Bake Off, Prue Leith is taking to the stage to share her stories - from a childhood spent in Africa, to messing up a cup of tea for the late Queen and being the butt of Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas’ jokes...

If there’s one thing Dame Prue Leith likes at the age of 82 - apart from a drink! - it’s a challenge. It’s the reason the TV presenter, chef, writer of bestsellers and director of a brand-new TV production company has chosen this moment to embark on an international tour of one-woman shows to tell some of her stories. 
And there are plenty of stories to tell: her childhood in Africa, her years in Paris, her glittering career in cooking and as a pioneering businesswoman… and, of course, her judging role on The Great British Bake Off.
“At the end of the first shows, I thought, I must be mad,” says Prue with a chuckle from behind some outsize multi-coloured spectacles. She’s talking about her early try-outs of Nothing In Moderation, the show that starts with highlights from her glittering life against a backdrop of personal photographs - “mostly funny” - and “clips of past disasters’, before moving into an audience question-and-answer session after the interval. “I was so frightened, but by the time I did New York, I absolutely loved it and realised why people become addicted to doing one-man - or one-woman - shows. The audience was on my side, the atmosphere was terrific, and I just had a ball.” 
The UK leg of Prue’s tour kicked off in February and goes “all over the place”, ending up at the Palladium. “Imagine!” she laughs. “What the hell am I doing?” 
The whole show is done pretty much chronologically - though Prue admits she sometimes gets over-excited and jumps around a little, starting with her saying to the audience that “probably the one thing you know about me is that I eat cake for a living on telly”. 
“Basically because I’ve lived such a long life, there’s quite a lot that’s interesting. How I failed at university in Cape Town, how I went off to Paris and fell in love with food, how I started as a chef-for-hire in a bedsit in Earl’s Court, going around in a little bubble car delivering food. And I tell lots of disaster stories. People love to hear what goes wrong. And you only have to have a member of the royal family come into a situation and everything automatically goes wrong.”
Prue illustrates that belief with a story about how she had to present the late Queen with a simple cup of tea and managed to mess it up completely, adding lemon, taking out lemon, making it too weak, ruining the tea-tray… “It should be easy enough, shouldn’t it? I still feel ashamed that I couldn’t present our beloved Queen with a simple cup of tea. But I actually have quite a few royal disaster stories, which the audiences love!” 
And yet she still got the Damehood! “It did take me 50 years,” she laughs. “I blame that cup of tea!”
In the 1980s, after she had sold her businesses - a cooking school, a catering business and a restaurant - Prue found herself sitting, usually as the only woman, on a lot of high-powered company boards, representing the customer and women in general to groups of men in grey suits, who treated her as something of a novelty. “There weren’t many women very high up in business back in the ’80s, especially not running their own businesses, and so I got a lot of these jobs: Halifax, Sainsbury’s, Whitbread, British Rail…” 
She tells the story of the time she started on one particular board with 16 older men, mostly Scottish engineers. When she got up “because I was dying for a wee but was too shy”, all 16 men stood respectfully “to bow me out of the room!” They then stood up again when she came back in. “The first time I opened my mouth was to say ‘Now look, guys, you’ve got to treat me like a chap! You can’t keep jumping up and down!’”
The reason these stories are so inspirational is not that Prue is fearless but rather that she feels the fear… and does it anyway. “I’m always a bit nervous,” she admits - and not least when she first went on stage, which she says terrified her so much that she could feel her heart hammering. “But John does turn up in the interval with a whisky…” John, her second husband, lives in a virtually ‘cake-free house’ and jokes that he should have married Mary Berry instead of Prue.
It’s not the whisky that makes the second half of the show go easier but the fact that Prue takes questions from the audience, some of which she’s not permitted - contractually - to answer. “People want to know about things that happen off-screen in Bake Off, and I’m not allowed to tell them about that,” she explains, adding that she also won’t talk about who she beat to the Bake Off job when Mary Berry left. 
“I can say I lie in a hammock between shots, but I think they’re longing to know whether Paul Hollywood’s eyes are really that blue. Paul and I get on really well because we both care a lot about food and we know the same people.” Prue actually phoned Mary Berry to ask about Paul before she took the job. The main advice from Mary was “You have to hold your own.”
As for Bake Off presenters Noel and Matt... “They are like 15-year-old children,” says Prue. “I just don’t understand their sense of humour, I mostly don’t get their jokes, and I’m the butt of most of them because I don’t get any of the innuendos. They think a sausage is something to laugh about. I don’t get it, but I love them dearly.’ 
Embarking on a major international tour at the age of 82, in a tour bus - “I’d love groupies,” she jokes, “I’m all for attention!” - isn’t what most people are thinking about doing at that stage in their lives. For most people of 80-plus, surely it’s more about sitting at home with a slice of cake and a cup of tea, watching Pointless? “That’s the last thing I want to do!” laughs Prue. “Not that I don’t love Pointless. I just have a lot of energy and want to do stuff. I’m not sure you shouldn’t have a revolution in your life every few years. I did food for the first 25 years, then I sold all the companies because I wanted to write novels, so for the next 20 years I wrote novels and the autobiography. Then it was television…”
Given that she has a tour bus and an entourage, you can’t help but wonder if she also has a rock’n’roll rider - the list that rock stars send ahead to the venue, outlining how many bottles of Jack Daniels are required for backstage. Prue wasn’t aware that such a thing existed. When she finds out, she smiles that smile of hers, turns to someone and shouts “I think we need a rider!”