TABLE manners matter, don’t they?

“I hope you’re not offended. I’ve just made an omelette,” Jessie Ware tells me right at the start of our conversation. “It’s just that I have been on work calls all morning. I’m going to be really, really thoughtful when I decide to chomp.”

Wednesday morning and Ware is sitting in her home in London at a table covered with “raspberries and bananas and cuddly toys” in her makeshift kitchen.

“It’s not really a kitchen,” she points out. “I’ve got one hob that works and a mini oven that does everything. I’ve got my toaster grill and my microwave.”

In the background her husband Sam is limbering up to do a workout as Ware settles down to eat and talk to me about music and motherhood and food.

Table Manners. That matters for Ware, too. It’s the name of the hugely successful podcast she does with her mum Lennie, in which they cook for and talk to passing celebrities. Everyone from Robbie Williams to Kylie Minogue, Dawn French to Jamie Oliver, have turned up to chat about life and food on the podcast. It has had something like 25 million downloads since it was launched in 2017. We are speaking just after Ware’s biggest coup to date. A certain Paul McCartney and his daughter Mary recently popped in for some veggie food. “I had a moment with a Beatle,” Ware says, still clearly thrilled.

Table Manners has already spawned a spin-off cookbook. And now Ware has written a book about her own relationship with food, entitled Omelette. Her choice of brunch this morning, she is quick to point out, “isn’t because I’m promoting my bloody book, I tell you.”

HeraldScotland: Jessie Ware and her mother LennieJessie Ware and her mother Lennie

The book effectively states its intent with its opening line: “As soon as I came out of my mother, I was so greedy I made her nipples bleed.”

What follows are snapshots of food memories and the odd recipe as well as flashing insights into Ware’s own story; of growing up with her single mum after her dad (the Panorama reporter John Ware) left, her teenage years, her Jewish heritage, the Goop-style pregnancy she planned for her first child and her problems with breast feeding both her daughter and her son.

Which reminds me. The last time I saw Ware was on The Graham Norton Show in February, when she performed her single Remember Where You Are while looking conspicuously pregnant. “Yes, something is in here,” she told Norton, caressing her belly. “And it’s not a pie.”

So, the question to ask this morning Jessie is not so much how are you, but how pregnant are you?

“I’m very pregnant. I’m in my third trimester. What am I, Sam?” she asks, turning to her husband. “Am I about eight months? I think I’m seven and a half, eight months pregnant.”

Basically, the perfect time to be bringing out a new book, reissuing your last album, promoting Please, her latest single, and planning a tour then, Jessie.

“It’s so exciting though. It’s completely by accident that this has all happened together at the same time. My version of maternity leave. I’ll continue on with my podcast. This next month is mental, but I actually love it. I feel so lucky I do all these different things. They really satisfy me, and it’s been really good for the pregnancy because you can’t even think about what is going on.”

HeraldScotland: Jessie Ware when she was a child. Still enjoying her foodJessie Ware when she was a child. Still enjoying her food

As anyone who has listened to the Table Manners podcast will know, Ware is good company. Chatty, open, honest. In that sense her new book reflects its writer. There are two moments in it, I tell her, that horrified me. The first was the image of an unnamed music producer using his girlfriend as a spittoon.

“Oh my God, I am so glad you pointed that out. F****** horrible,” she agrees.

Would I know who this person was, Jessie? “I’ll never tell.”

And the other thing was her revelation that she loves UHT milk, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the creation of the Devil.

“I just love the sweetness of it. I could probably drink a whole vat of condensed milk if I were allowed.”

The subtext of her new book is that, when it comes to food, greed is good. Is there anything, I ask her, that she can’t eat?

“I think I can probably eat everything, but I did try sweetbreads the other day. I didn’t want to eat them, but they were on this menu, and it was this really exciting restaurant, and I wasn’t going to be that person who was like, ‘No thank you.’ So, I tried it and I closed my eyes. And … it wasn’t horrendous, but I don’t necessarily want to order it again.”

Ware, of course, first made her name as a singer. She released her debut solo album Devotion back in 2012. Her latest album What’s Your Pleasure? – her fourth, a joyous disco banger of a thing – was released last year and a new edition has just come out. It has been a critical and commercial hit and re-established her as a force in British music after a few years where her career was drifting.

But it’s the podcast that has really moved her front and centre. “It’s been incredibly fulfilling and exciting and it doesn’t feel like work,” she says.

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Listening to the Paul McCartney episode it’s easy to hear why it’s been so popular. As well as the revelation that McCartney does eye yoga - a story that made all the papers after the podcast dropped – it features a blazing row between Ware and her mum in the middle of it.

“It was not a proud moment for me, but it was entertaining for everyone else,” Ware admits.

“That’s the thing. You never know what’s going to happen on Table Manners. Usually, it’s just a nice chat over food. But sometimes with my mum you get all the baggage of previous discussions we’ve had off-air coming to the forefront. That doesn’t stop when you’re meeting a legend.

“I was so embarrassed, honestly. But it was really funny. Mary McCartney texted me going, ‘My dad was so happy you kept it in.’ I was like, ‘Don’t worry. This is gold for our listeners. It was always going to stay in.’”

What has the podcast done for her and her mum, I wonder? “For me, it started as an escape and now it has become this thing that has opened me up to a whole range of new people and let my personality honestly shine through, warts and all,” she says.

“For my mother, I don’t think I really comprehend and appreciate how different it is from her normal life, just because she’s always been such a gregarious, vivacious star to all my friends and her friends.

“I’m so proud of her. She was a single mother, she worked hard, she’s a social worker and now she’s become a kind of accidental gay icon. It’s been lovely.”

Let’s return to Ware’s notion of escape at the beginning of that last answer for a moment. When the podcast launched in 2017 it’s fair to say that the singer wasn’t in the best place. She had just released her third album Glasshouse but was struggling to be a mum and a pop star. She was also losing money touring. Then came a miserable gig at Coachella which also saw her have a run-in with the rapper Cardi B. After that, her mum told her she should quit the music business.

HeraldScotland: Jessie Ware's latest album What's Your Pleasure?Jessie Ware's latest album What's Your Pleasure?

“I just was not very happy,” Ware recalls. “And it’s hard to say you’re not very happy when you’re doing a job that so many people would love to do.

“But there was so much toing and froing. I was a new mother, and I was trying to be the best at everything and probably failing.

“And I was so … I wouldn’t say bored, but I felt numb to this job which should never feel like a job.

“And that’s when you think, ‘OK, maybe I should sack this in.’”

Instead, she started the podcast and coincidentally it helped revive her music career. Suddenly, she says, “I think people could understand me more as a person.”

That, in turn, gave her renewed confidence. Her last album What’s Your Pleasure?, released last year, felt like the work of someone comfortable in her own skin. It’s a disco album that Rolling Stone has described as her best album yet. When fellow disco diva Roisin Murphy asked her what she hoped people would take away from the music in Interview Magazine, she replied: “I want people to want to have sex, even if they can’t have sex.”

Well, yes. The pandemic has affected every part of life. There’s something about disco that speaks to hard times perhaps. “Yeah, and it’s accidental serendipity. It’s been a really tough year for a lot of people and if my album just offered a little release, it’s my pleasure to have done that.”

Ware is clearly in love with music again. “And it’s not only the podcast that helped me do that. I changed management, changed label, worked with friends. It felt incredibly secure.”

In the past Ware has admitted that she’s something of a people-pleaser. When did she feel she had the confidence to speak up and remind everyone that this was her career?

“It’s funny. I think I had it at the beginning. But I had so little experience. I was so scared. The first album did very well. I don’t think the label expected it to do as much. And then people go, ‘Oh, hold on a minute. Now it’s done quite well we can really go commercial.’


“I think you get pulled along on this ride and I lost an element of myself because you have so many different voices in your ear. I was enjoying the ride, and in that process sometimes I think I lost that strength of voice. I was being given these opportunities and therefore you felt like you had to fit in rather than stand out.”

What changed? Remembering “the joy and the art of saying no,” she says.

Time for the back story. Born in 1984, Jessie Ware grew up in a secular Jewish household in south London. Her parents divorced when she was 10 and her mum Lennie brought up Ware and her brother and sister on her own.


In Omelette, Ware writes at one point, “I had always wanted to grow up quickly.” What was behind that desire, I wonder? “I think I was so enamoured by my parents and especially my mum and her charisma. And I never felt that comfortable in myself as a teenager.

“It was not wanting to do all the naughty things. It was more that adult conversation and experience that looked so enticing. And a lot of that centred around hearing the rumblings of my mum’s dinner parties downstairs. I wanted to be at that dinner table, you know.”

Pop psych might suggest it had also something to do with your parent’s splitting up.

“I think I had to grow up when my mum and dad separated. I took on a different role to just being a child. We all had to be a support network for each other. We were like a strong army together, my mum, my brother and my sister. But I don’t think it had anything to do with my mum and dad breaking up, no.”

Ware was something of a late starter when it came to music. She went to university, considered journalism for a while, and even worked for a TV production company where she became matey with one of her colleagues who wrote fan fiction about Twilight, a certain EL James.

It was only when her old schoolmate singer-songwriter Jack Penate phoned her out of the blue and asked her to do backing vocals on a BBC session that music moved to the fore. She was 27 when she signed her first record contract.

Music and food are now the central pillars of her life and work. She talks excitedly about restaurants opening up again after lockdown and in passing raves about Mother India in Glasgow (“one of my best ever curries,” she says).


She loves cooking too, even though, she says, “I’m such a messy cook.” She’s also currently juggling with the alleged pleasure of cooking for kids. “My children are so fussy at the moment. I’d love for them to be up for something that I cook that isn’t just yellow or carb-based,” she admits.

“It’s really funny watching my daughter eat mussels because I don’t think she realises what’s she’s doing. She loves them and she loves squid. I just keep schtum when she eats them. And it just blows my mind that she can eat a mussel, but she can’t eat a bloody pepper.”

Next year, Ware is going to have her own Bat Mitzvah. “Yeah, I’ve got a date and everything.” It’s obvious from the book that her Jewish heritage is increasingly important to her. In the book she notes how the rising tide of anti-Semitism has been a factor in all of this. “Somewhere down the line,” she writes, “I had stopped wearing my Star of David, toned down the ‘Jew’ in me, brushed Jew-hate under the carpet, even when it was directed at me.”

Such a painful line to read. Even more so to write, I guess.

“But you know what? I think that was why I felt like I needed to write something in there to acknowledge that and to use it as a celebration. Table Manners burst out of those Friday Night Dinners. I want to celebrate my Judaism, my cultural heritage and all that.

And food is a huge part of that? “Yeah, exactly. I had my Jewish heritage given to me on a plate, literally. Food from my grandma, food from my mum. Being a mother myself I just wanted that offering to give to my kids.

“Also, I love the idea that my kids think they have to stay in on a Friday night. I mean there is an agenda in that. I don’t know if it will stick, but we’ll see.”

All this talk of food. I’m worried that her omelette will be getting cold. “I’ve eaten it! Don’t worry. That was done within the first question.”

Table manners matter. So, Jessie Ware will tell you, does appetite. She is greedy for life. It’s a good thing to be.


Omelette: Food, Love, Chaos and Other Conversations, by Jessie Ware, is published by Hodder Studio, £12.99. The deluxe version of What's Your Pleasure? is out now