CELEBRITY INTERVIEW: Meet Annabel Karmel

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We loved Annabel Karmel from the minute we started to research the word “weaning” over two years ago.  But when we were given the opportunity to interview her, we loved her even more.  You'll soon see why… 
Annabel
Karmel, a leading baby & child nutrition expert and international
multi million best-selling author, a mother, celebrity and inspiration
answered the following questions.                                                                                                           

1.  Tell us about a typical working day at Annabel Karmel.

I don’t have a typical day. However I try to keep Tuesday’s for cooking. We have an office in Maida Vale and I have ten people working on our brand. I love being in the office and we have just launched new packaging for our chilled toddler meals in supermarkets. We are also launching a new website in July. I am always writing books and this year we launched the Busy Mum’s Cookbook and the 25th Anniversary edition of the Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner and I am now working on a new book.
 

2.  You’ve managed to build your own empire and raise your children at the same time.  How did you manage your work life vs. your home life when your kids were younger?

I purposely chose writing books when my children were little so that I could work from home and spend time with them.  I only developed the business into food products after I wrote 17 books although it was something that I planned to do from the very beginning but I made the decision to only do this  once the children were at full time school.


3.   You have always been open about the tragic and sudden loss of your first daughter, Natasha, at only 13 weeks old.  No words could describe how traumatic that must have been and as a result you decided to close the door to your music career.  What advice would you give to parents going through a similar experience?

I can’t even explain the depths of despair I felt when I lost Natasha.  I didn’t really know how to cope but I did know that for me  having another child was what I needed most of all as to be a mother and give birth then no longer be a mother is devastating   I took a fertility drug called chlomid prescribed by my obstetrician.  It had taken me two years to get pregnant  with Natasha and I just couldn’t face another two years of trying.  I was very lucky to fall pregnant within four months of Natasha’s death and knowing that I was going to have another baby whilst not being able to replace Natasha really helped bring a positive focus into my life. I think everyone has their own way of coping and many people advised me that I needed to get over the grief of Natasha’s death before trying for another child .


4.   Your cooking career began soon after your son was born.  When starting out, did you ever think that you would be as successful as you are now?

Absolutely not! I was making up recipes as Nicholas was a terribly fussy eater and I was determined to give him a good start in life . I ran a playgroup in St John’s Wood called ‘Babes in the Wood’ and every week I shared the recipes that Nicholas enjoyed with the other mums and every week they would ask for more recipes.  Then after a few months the mums said to me that I should write a book as the recipes were so good and their children loved them . At first I wasn’t sure but then I thought that it would be a wonderful legacy to Natasha to give some meaning to her short life.  It took me 2 years to write the book and it was published in 1991.  I worked with the Institute of Child Health the research arm of  Great Ormond Street to make sure that all the advice in the book was based on proper scientific research. There was a lot of conflicting advice out there for parents which was confusing and not always correct. This month we have just published the 25th Anniversary edition with lots of new recipes and photos . The book has sold  over 4 million copies

5.  Not only are you a leading expert on baby food and nutrition in children and families, you are also a best-selling author, have developed an app, meals on the go and have been a huge inspiration to millions.  How does that feel?

I set out to work with children and make a difference when Natasha died and I am very proud that I have done that. Whether you get recipes from my App, website, books, my Instagram or buy my ready meals or baby food pouches everyone has access to my recipes and my advice. I believe that my skill has been  in recipe development making healthy food for children taste good without spending hours in the kitchen.  As a mother I also understood how difficult it was for parents as I had three fussy eaters myself.


6.  Out of all your books, which has been your favourite to date and why?  What has been your favourite recipe?

My first book is like my fifth child.  It has become the essential guide to feeding babies and toddlers in the UK and around the world. That book  changed my life and I found my passion.  I always wanted to create a range of food in supermarkets when I wrote the book but I didn’t know that it would take me 17 years before I did that.  It was due to the success of that book that Marks and Spencer asked me to help them develop their chilled food range and I worked with them for about 18 months  , I then developed a range of food and equipment for babies at Boots and worked with them for 2 years.  I was learning on the job and I decided that I could do better than either of these ranges and created my own range of ready meals for toddlers. We launched a range of chilled toddler meals in Sainsbury’s in 2006 and we are now  in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Ocado and we have a range Baby Food pouches  in Lidl and Ocado. Its very difficult to pick a favourite recipe from my first book  but one very popular recipe in the book is my Chicken and Apple Balls – its a combination of minced chicken, grated apple, thyme, onion, breadcrumbs etc.. I created the recipe because Nicholas loved apple but wouldn’t eat chicken.


7.  There have been so many controversial debates on Baby Led Weaning vs. Puree food.  What guidance would you give to those starting out on their baby weaning journeys?

I am not against Baby Led Weaning.  I think its important to introduce finger foods and more lumpy foods to little ones and encourage self feeding. However I don’t believe in excluding baby purees. It can be very difficult to get some babies to make the transition from milk to solids and baby purees help with that transition. Also from 6 months babies need nutrients like iron and essential fatty acids and many babies just don’t have the hand to eye co ordination to feed themselves successfully so I believe a mix of self feeding and purees works well..

8.   How do you come up with your recipes and who tests them?

I am always thinking about food and recipe development whether I am in the supermarket , eating out or looking through cookery books.  I am obsessed with food and luckily I can eat a lot and not put on weight as am always trying out new recipes.  I test all my recipes several times and I work with a wonderful girl called Lucinda on a Tuesday who also works with Mary Berry and she tests my recipes.  She has two young children of her own and we have become good friends and I love working with her.

 
9.   What advice would you offer to other mums who are thinking about starting their own business?

You have got to follow your passion.  You need to figure out what you love and have the courage to do that. No one can go back and make a new beginning but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
I wrote a book last year called Mumpreneur. It’s a practical guide to starting and running a successful business for mums. I interviewed 30 of the UKs top Mumpreneurs like Chrissie Rucker of the White Company, Jacqueline Gold and Liz Earle so it’s a mix of my story  and my advice on how to set up a business and advice from these amazing women and how they did it.    
 
Please finish the the sentences below:

When I was little I wanted to be… a Musician – In fact I played the harp and sang professionally for 14 years.

Motherhood is… the hardest job in the world but also the most rewarding.

Happiness is… coming back from work and being greetend by my three dogs Hamilton a Samoyed, Sabre my Golden Retriever and Bono my American Cocker Spaniel.

My biggest inspiration is… my three children Nicholas, Lara and Scarlett.

My favourite book is… Memoirs of a Geisha.

My favourite quote is… The opposite of success is not failure. Its not trying.

This week I am going to… be working with my daughter – she has joined my team and I love it that I now see her every day so sometimes there are advantages of being a working mother.