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Born in Surrey, Smith left school at the age of 16 with a single O-Level and went on to be a hairdresser as her first job, followed by a job as a shop assistant and a job in a travel agency. At the age of 21 she started working in a small kitchen in Paddington washing dishes before becoming a waitress and eventually being allowed to help out in the kitchen with the food. At the same time she read English cookbooks in the British Museum and tried new recipes out on the family she was staying with. Following this she worked at Carlton Studios producing food for photography.
In the 60s and 70s Smith held a lot of public writing positions. In 1969 Smith became a cookery writer for a subsidiary of the Daily Mirror and in the same year the album Let It Bleed by the Rolling stones was released for which Smith baked the cake on the front cover. Several years later Smith started a column in the Evening Standard, defected to the rival Evening News and later went back to the Evening Standard when it bought out the Evening News; she later wrote a column for the Radio Times until 1986.
Smith’s first TV appearance came in the 70s when she became a resident cook on BBC East’s regional magazine programme Look East. Following this she got her own TV show - Family Fare - running between 1973 and 1975. She became especially recognisable amongst young people in the UK when she became an occasional guest on the BBC’s Saturday morning programme Multicoloured Swap Shop. Smith released her first cookbook in 1971 and continued to write ever-popular books afterwards - her 1995 book Delia Smith’s Winter Collection became the fifth best-selling book of the 1990s. Delia Smith became famous for her involvement in football, not only for her majority shareholding of Norwich city but also for her halftime interruption of a match against Manchester City.
In 2003 she announced her retirement from TV, however, in 2008 she did a six-part series, in 2010 she was part of a five-part series that looked at her cooking through the decades and in 2013, along with Heston Blumenthal, she agreed to be part of an advertising campaign for Waitrose. In 2013 she announced her retirement from TV again, focusing instead on putting her recipes online.