The flavor of an era
In ‘The Unofficial Bridgerton Cookbook,’ Lex Taylor whips up spectacle and food
The steamy romance between dashing Duke Simon and daring Daphne.
Lavish masked balls. Luxurious high teas every afternoon.
And the enduring mystery of sharp-tongued Lady Whistledown’s identity.
Netflix series “Bridgerton” dazzled television audiences, and fan merchandise soon followed. Now comes “The Unofficial Bridgerton Cookbook.”
But don’t assume it’s by Martha Stewart or Nigella Lawson. The right man for the job was Lex Taylor, the author of “Grill Fire,” who specializes in macho foraging through the Hudson Valley and hosting game dinners that are over-the-top experiences.
He’s gathered 100 recipes and they’re not all scones, although the scones are eyepopping, with a hint of saffron and crimson barberries for added color. There are of course big Dickensian meat pies with thick crusts, and creamy dreamy desserts.
But many dishes have been perked up with contemporary touches like mango relish for a savory rack of lamb. Most have cheeky names like Debutante Punch, Marry for Love Mini Muffins and Future-securing Lobster Bisque.
And while the recipes are riveting, even fans who don’t spend much time in the kitchen will be tempted to flip through the book, which is filled with trivia and historical context about Bridgerton’s glamorous days-of-empire world.
We had to chat with Taylor, who has appeared on “Chopped” and “Beat Bobby Flay” and is the winner of Esquire Network’s “The Next Great Burger.” We called him to find out just how this outdoorsy type found his way into the upper echelons of gentlemanly boxing bouts and pinkies-up tea salons. How did you land this project? Your idea or did they pitch you? No, I pitched it knowing fully well that I was never gonna get the job.
What? Why did you think that?
It was a 100% certainty in my mind. I just figured I’m not the guy that most people would think to hire to write a “Bridgerton” cookbook. I’m more of a wilderness/survival/ outdoor chef and barbecue guy. It’s a little bit of an unlikely match. Like you might think, oh, Ina Garten or Martha Stewart would write something that has high tea recipes. But you’re not just interested in food. You’re interested in the culture that surrounds food. Right? Exactly. That’s where it all worked out. I’m glad that it came to fruition like that. On the surface, I was just thinking there must be a bunch of 35-yearold women who are “Bridgerton” fanatics and have already written five books for Simon & Schuster who are on their radar. So, you know, how does this ever really work?
So how did it work?
I’ve been doing these private dinners for a long time and they are basically a spectacle. My friends always joke, “Hey Lex! You gotta figure out a way to make money doing these dinners.” And I’m, like, it’s not about the money. It’s about the spectacle. It’s about the glory and just entertaining people and telling stories. And that’s always been my passion and you know, Bridgerton, at that time in the Regency era (1811-1820), was completely over the top with hosting and celebrating, and so there was a lot of overlap there.
How did you start getting into it?
I have an extensive background in international food from living all over and cooking crazy stuff from all over the world. And the Regency was a time, albeit a very short time in British history, where there was a complete and utter fanaticism for the exotic. And so I knew a lot of those flavors already. And so it worked. And then also I just channeled that Lady Bridgerton hard. I wanted to be an actor in another life, so I always like to get immersed in character and I love that voice and that energy.
Had you always been a fan of “Bridgerton”?
I was already a fan. I wouldn’t say I was a freak of the show at first. I watched it a bit. My wife watched it. It was COVID — everybody was living vicariously through “Bridgerton.” So my agent called me one morning and said, “Lex, what would you think about putting in a proposal for ‘Bridgerton’?” And I said, ‘Why would I do that? What does that have to do with me?’ ” Within a matter of minutes he was talking to my wife and I was like, wait a sec. I know it’s not exactly what I would do right off the bat, but it’s so me on so many levels. My passion for cooking and my culinary expertise is cooking with live fire; it’s curing, smoking and pickling and traditional cooking techniques and working with hunters and people who fish, and that’s what the food was.
So you took a deep dive?
I realized if we’re going to do a good job on the book we need to know it better than all the hardcore fans. I watched the season five times.
I got super into the show. I love the show. The romance stuff, I’ll be honest, still is not super for me, but the depth of the characters, the absolute brilliance of the acting and just the spectacle. You can’t deny that it’s masterfully done.
The recipes are great. I made the lamb and instead of mint jelly you had a mango relish — fresh, fruity with a kick. So it’s bringing in the Caribbean and some of the exotic flavors you’re talking about.
If you really go toe-totoe with those recipes from back in the day, nobody wants to eat that food — it’s superheavy. All the vegetables were coated in butter, sugar and then more butter. … But Britain owning half of the world, all the colonies were for the first time bringing in crazy stuff from everywhere and they obsessed over it just for the sake of it. And so they were making these dishes with mangoes. The upper class in London had these giant greenhouses where they had mango trees and orange trees, so the estates could have these fruits readily available for them.
Anything else you want readers to know?
The Regency era in general was a great inspiration for learning how to host and be a better host and thinking beyond just the food itself and really thinking about what food means as a way of expressing yourself and telling stories. So I think that people should keep an eye out for that in “Bridgerton.” And obviously in “Bridgerton” you’re showing off your wealth, but you can show off your creativity, too. Look at the photos in the book of floral arrangements and the lighting and the different types of plates and silverware and how that all comes together into a spectacle — that’s not to be overlooked when you’re hosting.