Food critic and TV personality returns home to receive honour 25 years on
Grace Dent, TV personality and newspaper columnist, received an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Cumbria on Thursday, 25 years after she left for the bright lights of London.
Grace, who was born and raised in Carlisle, made the 300-mile trip to receive the honour in front of an audience of the latest cohort of arts and creative graduates.
Grace is best known as a columnist for The Guardian and Evening Standard, she also makes regular appearances on TV on shows such as Masterchef.
She was bestowed the fellowship in recognition for her lifelong and outstanding service to the media industry.
In her acceptance speech, she certainly gave the audience food for thought, pointing out that she had not stepped foot in Carlisle Cathedral in four decades.
“I am extremely touched to be here at Carlisle Cathedral. I think the last time I was here was in 1978 for an infant school trip and I walked in through those doors holding hands with my partner so we didn’t get lost.
“It’s strange to be stood here 40 years later in this hat, which, is frankly ruining my hair, celebrating my achievements.”
“I’m also proud to forge this connection with the University of Cumbria.
“I know from experience that people who study in Cumbria continue to have a warmth for the place. This is a special place. And graduates never, ever forget the years you’ll spend expanding your mind in this glorious portion of the country.
“I hope through my connection I’ll inspire future generations to study here, and also to believe that with sheer hard work, tenacity and bloody-mindedness you can achieve what you want."
When asked what advice she could bestow on the graduates, she said:
“To keep on going.
“Rock bottom comes at least three times a year, when you’re putting yourself out there. You have to think that tomorrow is another day. When things are really hard, go and sleep, regroup and start again in the morning.”
Professor Rob Trimble, Pro Vice Chancellor, Academic, conferred Grace’s honour and had this to say about her.
“Her positive approach to life has enhanced her own learning and opened the doors to many opportunities, challenges and experiences. Grace is an inspiration and positive role model to many who are considering entering the media industry.
“She is most worthy of becoming an Honorary Fellow of the University of Cumbria.”
Born in Currock, Carlisle in 1975, from an early age, Grace aspired to live in London, to write a newspaper column, present on TV and write books.
She followed her dream and studied English Literature at Stirling University.
Her first break came when she won a competition to write for Cosmopolitan magazine. On graduating she got a job making tea at Marie Claire and subsequently became a writer for the magazine.
Later she worked as a freelance journalist writing features and columns for Glamour, Vogue and more.
In 2000, she went to work for the Guardian newspaper writing a weekly soap round-up, a job she did for 12 years before moving to the Independent.
An award-nominated writer, from 2011 to 2017, she penned a restaurant column for The Evening Standard called ‘Grace and Flavour’.
She was the creative director for the paper’s ‘London Food Month Festival’ and continues to work on similar projects alongside fellow food writer and critic, Tom Parker-Bowles.
Grace has written 12 fiction and non-fiction books, starting with teen novel It’s a Girl Thing and going on to create the bestselling Diary of a Chav books followed by the Diary of a Snob series.
In 2011, she wrote How to Leave Twitter – My Time as Queen of the Universe and Why This Must Stop – about the strange and addictive world of social media.
Currently, she is the Guardian’s restaurant critic. Alongside this, she presents The Untold on BBC Radio 4, a series documenting the untold dramas of 21st century Britain.
Grace regularly appears in food-related television programmes including Masterchef, Masterchef: the Professionals and The Great British Menu.
She has also appeared on Have I Got News for You, Very British Problems and The Apprentice: You’re Fired and has produced and presented documentaries for Channel 4 and Sky Atlantic.