She has raised the temperature on a kids’ cookery programme and now Katy Ashworth is flying high in panto, as TAMZIN LEWIS discovers
YOU may not be familiar with Mr Spoon, Pinchy Parrot, Horace the Van or indeed Katy Ashworth, so by way of introduction, she is a CBeebies presenter who has made her name with the show I Can Cook.
In the programme, Katy and a group of kids make healthy recipes such as rockpool pies, gold-digger buns and scrunchy munchy fishcakes.
She also introduces the children to mucky veg straight from the allotment, sings songs and sit-downs with her chefs at the end of the programme to eat all the yummy treats.
Her third series, I Can Cook on the Go, involves Katy making snacks in her wondrous travelling kitchen at different farms across the country.
The show is a big hit for CBeebies, but Katy says that a career in kids’ entertainment ‘fell into her lap’.
She says: “I was 16 when I saw an advert for a party entertainer and went for it. I really enjoyed working with kids and worked well with them. That took me in the direction of children’s presenting and children’s theatre.
“I love making children laugh, and I love children’s comedy. I am quite simple really and adore really simple slapstick comedy.
“I’m not into complex drama and never have been, so my career has naturally gone in that direction.”
Katy, 26, originally from Hampshire, studied drama at the University of Exeter, where she set up a soul music choir.
She also trained in Commedia Dell’Arte in Italy and studied improvisation in Paris. After graduating she auditioned for I Can Cook and is now one of CBeebies’ biggest stars. “Two ladies who ran a cookery school for children had the idea for I Can Cook,” says Katy. “While I am not a chef, doing a kids’ cooking show came quite naturally. I took it for granted that my mum cooked with me when I was growing up.”
She adds: “I Can Cook is hard work but brilliant fun. The kids are the best, as you never know what they are going to say.
“In the last series we travelled around the UK to different farms, which I loved. It is important for the younger generation to take on board how our food is grown and where it comes from. And everyone should know how to cook – it’s a survival skill.”
Katy has also learnt to survive the panto season, and this is her third incarnation as JM Barrie’s mischievous creation, Peter Pan.
Sunderland Empire’s lavish production also stars Tom Lister from ITV’s Emmerdale as Captain Hook, stand-up comedian Sy Thomas as Smee and Sarah Jane Buckley from Hollyoaks as Mrs Darling.
Katy says: “I know the role well, but it feels very different this time as it is such a different production. This is a much bigger theatre than I have worked in before, and I’ve got a Tinker Bell this time, which is new for me. The role also incorporates acrobatics and adventurous flying.”
Katy’s exuberant interpretation of Peter involves her flying over the stalls, much to the delight of all the children in the audience.
So she has no fears of heights then?
“I’m an adventure sport fiend so I’m fine with heights,” replies Katy.
She is living with three members of the cast in Sunderland for the duration of the show and is keeping her culinary skills in tip-top order.
“Tonight, I am cooking my signature dish which is butternut squash risotto with pesto,” she says. “I love cooking, and if I could I would grow all my own stuff.”
She adds: “There is great cast rapport, and we are having a proper laugh as well, which is awesome, and going out every night after work which is fun.”
Katy is planning a new family show for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013, but for now her feet are firmly in the air in role as the magical boy who whisks Wendy, John and Michael to Neverland. She says: “At the end of the year I think, ‘Where am I going to get my energy from to do panto?’ But I love panto.
“My life involves a lot of travel, so it is nice to be in one place for a season. It’s wonderful.”
Peter Pan is at Sunderland Empire until January 6. Book tickets on 0844 871 3022 or at www.ATGtickets.com/sunderland
There is great cast rapport and we are having a proper laugh as well, which is awesome