I cannot tell you how much I have been looking forward to this interview with Jennifer Ryan of The Kitchen Front! As many of my readers know, I love historical fiction. There really is something about reading a story set in another era. The Kitchen Front is no exception. It is an original storyline with fresh characters. I could not wait to chat with Jennifer Ryan!
Jennifer, tell us more about The Kitchen Front.
It’s a cooking contest set in Second World War Britain, where the contestants have to work with food rations and shortages. The prize is to be the first-ever female co-host on the daily BBC show, The Kitchen Front. Four very different women contestants all have their own reasons why they are desperate to win, from a kitchen maid desperate for freedom to a young widow desperate to keep a roof over her family’s heads. The novel comes with genuine WW2 recipes, from Eggless Cake to Sheep’s Head Roll and Whale-meat Pie, for anyone bold enough to try them.
What inspired you to write a novel of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition?
I love cooking contests! My daughters and I hold our own baking challenges, and we’re hooked on The British Baking Show and Nailed It! My Granny’s cooking came from an era of food rationing, which went on until 1954, and I always wanted to write a novel around her recipe book—a passed-down legacy from a bygone era. The contest was a really fun way to showcase how people cooked with big limitations on especially meat, sugar, and cooking fats.
Are any of the four women in The Kitchen Front based on real women during that time?
Yes, Nell was based on a real kitchen maid who began working in a manor house when she was only 14, straight from the orphanage. Her boss, Lady Gwendoline, is a Home Economist, as was the cooking writer Marguerite Patten. The young widow and mom in financial trouble, Audrey, is based on a woman whose journal survives today. And Zelda, a professional chef trying to hide her pregnancy, was inspired by the colorful Fanny Craddock, who became a famous TV chef in the 1960s.
Did you have a favorite character in The Kitchen Front?
Although I love them all in their own ways, it is Audrey’s spirit and heart that is at the very core of the novel. I love that she finds wild foods, grows her own, and keeps hens and pigs, juggling motherhood with her home baking business, desperately trying to keep the roof over their heads. You’re on her team right from the start. The kitchen maid, Nell, is another favorite.
How much research did you have to do before crafting The Kitchen Front?
There’s nothing better than reading about cooking and food to make you want to try it out for yourself—and I put on 5lbs while writing this novel! Every cake and pie in the book—plus more—had been tested, often a few times. A lot of them came from original recipe cards in the National Archives in London. Others came from original recipe books from that era.
Why historical fiction? Did you always read historical books growing up?
Absolutely! Historical fiction breathes life into the past. It delivers not only a terrific story with great characters, but it adds another dimension—time and history. The Second World War was an incredible era, especially for women, who saw new freedoms, opportunities, and plenty of excitement, as well as suffering the chaos of bombs and the heartbreaking loss.
Before I let you go, what is one fun fact about you that your readers may not know?
I love singing in choirs and have been a soloist on a few occasions, too. It’s that special feeling of warmth and solidarity you get from singing together that inspired my first novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.
That concludes our interview! Be sure to comment what you think of my interview with Jennifer Ryan of The Kitchen Front below! You can also get your copy of The Kitchen Front today!