Ainsley Harriott says ‘national treasure’ status caused his divorce

Ainsley Harriott has said his status as a British national treasure contributed to the end of his marriage.

The celebrity chef, 67, who is best known for hosting the cooking game show Ready Steady Cook, announced his separation from Clare Fellows in 2012 after 23 years of marriage.

Harriott said his celebrity status affected his relationship with Fellows, who he shares two children with and remains on good terms with despite their separation.

Speaking to Rylan Clark on his How to Be in the Spotlight podcast, Harriott explained he didn’t put himself in the “national treasure” category. “You don’t put yourself in there,” he said. “You’re not someone who brings negativity, you’re someone who brings a smile.”

He added of his interactions with his fans: “Most of the time people approach me, even if they bash their supermarket trolley into me, it’s always a lovely moment, been doing it for years.

“They still bring a tomato and a pepper, ‘What you going to do with this?’. I smile, I have a little moment with them.”

However, the chef acknowledged the attention from the public can hinder romantic relationships. “I think it’s difficult for partners,” he said.

Aisnley Harriott and wife Clare Fellows at the TV Quick Awards in 1998 (PA)
Aisnley Harriott and wife Clare Fellows at the TV Quick Awards in 1998 (PA)

“It was certainly difficult for my ex and I think that probably contributed to our break-up because you are sharing the person that you love all the time and that is hard.”

Ainsley first met Fellows, who works as a costume designer, in a clothes shop and has previously said he experienced love at first sight after introducing himself to her.

In 2020, the chef admitted he still has feelings for Fellows eight years after their separation.

‘My marriage didn’t last, but when I look at my beautiful children and the lovely relationship I have with them, there can be only positives,” he told The Mirror.

“I still have love and feelings for my ex-wife, that never stops because she gave me the most important things in my life, and there is a respect there. But everyone moves on, and that’s fine.”