In her heyday, Nancy’s Channel 5 TV show pulled in over half a million viewers. Here is an article from way back then. Please also check out http://www.youtube.com/NancyLamTV for her current videos. Happy Watching!
THREE weeks on from the launch of Channel 5 and what have we got? A lot of young people, that’s what. It’s the one thing you can’t help but notice – all the presenters are really young. Switch it on at any time of the day or night and you’ll find a young man in a bright shirt bringing you the latest news or a young woman with a big smile telling you the latest showbiz gossip. The main newsreader is even called Kirsty Young, which is surely more than coincidence.
And of course they’re all very nice and well-meaning, and they’re easy on the eye (although I have to say I have a difficulty with a news bulletin delivered by some callow youth wearing hair gel). But you do end up with the rather worrying impression that the gene pool has shrunk to the extent that the world is peopled by earnest youngsters with a mission to be polite.
Thankfully, being polite is the one thing Nancy Lam could never be accused of. Nancy presents her very own in-your-face Oriental cookery show every Thursday evening and she’s quickly becoming Channel 5’s first big star. With her brightly coloured hair, wacky glasses and toothy grin, she looks a little like Janet Street-Porter (if Janet Street-Porter were to lose a couple of feet in height and then contract some sort of serious thyroid complaint, obviously) and she has one of the most manic laughs you’ll ever hear (“ha-haa-ha-ha-haaaaaa!”). Each week she conjures up culinary magic in her wok, occasionally breaking off to chivvy her amiable Ghanaian husband, Ben, for the ingredients. “Quick Ben! Courgette!” It’s great entertainment.
When we meet for lunch in a restaurant in Soho’s Chinatown, Nancy’s hair is dyed in Channel 5 rainbow colours, something she did for the station’s launch, and she’s wearing a pair of her trademark specs.
So how many pairs of glasses does she have?
“Why don’t you ask me how many pairs of knickers I have?” Nancy responds, ever the one to be outrageous should the opportunity should arise. I have to confess this wasn’t on my list of questions, but at times like this it’s often best to go with the flow.
So how many pairs of knickers does she have?
“Not many pairs. I can’t bloody afford them! Ha-haa!”
This theme of poverty is one she returns to often. Nancy grew up in Singapore, where her father ran a small prawn cracker factory, and in 1970, when she was in her twenties, she set off for London. She spoke very little English, but this didn’t stop her training as a nurse. And it was while working as a nurse in East Molesey in Surrey that she met Ben. It was love at first sight, apparently, and they were married on Valentine’s Day, 1976.
So why move into cookery?
“Nursing was so badly paid.” She says. “And I love cooking.”
She started with home catering, then sub-leased a café in Putney and ran a restaurant there in the evening. Finally, in 1986, the pair opened their very own restaurant, Enak Enak, in Lavender Hill, south London.
You can see the restaurant each week in Nancy’s show. I haven’t been there, but it seems to be frequented by the sort of young people who present programmes on Channel 5. Nancy is famous for being rude to her customers, but she admits it’s a performance, all part of the business. I get the feeling she’s quite a shrewd cookie, despite the pleas of poverty. “I’m very serious when it comes to business,” she says. And she comes from a family of traders after all.
Nancy admits it’s sometimes hard to be the person everyone expects her to be, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. And she’s very happy to be here. As the meal comes to an end, she gets all sentimental as she lists the pleasures of her life in England. “I have a house, I have gardening, I have lots of friends, I have fish, and the fish when they see me, their mouths open…”
It’s time to go.
“That’s it?” says Nancy. “You happy with that/ Good, you can piss off now. Ha-haaa-ha-ha-haaaaaaaaaaaaa!”