By Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON (Reuters) - Celebrity chef Delia Smith, who was inspired by the awfulness of British food, has decided to quit television, saying entertainment had overtaken education in modern cookery shows.
Smith, 71, the UK's best-selling cookery author with more than 21 million copies sold, told fans at a trade show that she was leaving TV after about 40 years to focus on a new venture, the Delia Online Cookery School.
The chef said she is still passionate about teaching people how to cook in a no-nonsense style but she wanted to work online with her followers who have coined the phrase "doing a Delia" to refer to preparing one of her recipes.
"This is the future for me and the population. It's miles ahead. If you do a TV program now, it's got to entertain," Smith was quoted by the Telegraph newspaper as telling a question and answer session at a trade show in Birmingham to promote her bakeware range.
A spokeswoman for Smith, Melanie Grocott, confirmed that the chef had announced she would not be doing any more TV shows and was concentrating on her online cookery school.
Smith's retirement will come as a disappointment to her many fans who opt for her practical, fail-safe recipes as opposed to some of the more flamboyant styles of newer celebrity chefs.
Her cookbooks are a staple in many UK kitchens.
Smith's departure from TV will also be a blow to some British supermarkets who report the "Delia effect" - a term listed in the Collins English Dictionary in 2001 to describe a rush for a certain ingredient or item used by Smith in a recipe.
Smith in her online biography said she quit school at 16 and worked as a hairdresser, in a shop and in a travel agency before starting to cook, wondering why British food was so awful and French food so good.
After working in a restaurant and as a magazine cookery writer, she wrote her first cookbook in 1971 but she made her name with her first TV show "Family Fare" in the mid-1970s.
She realized her aim was to educate people, taking them back to basics to cover classic techniques, and this mission has been reflected in her list of more than 20 cookbooks and almost 20 TV series since then.
Her show "Delia's How to Cook" in 1998 reportedly drove a 10 percent rise in egg sales in Britain.
Her latest TV series, "Delia Through the Decades," ran for five weeks in 2010 before she signed up to appear in a series of TV commercials for supermarket Waitrose with experimental chef Heston Blumenthal, who is known for snail porridge and bacon ice-cream. She recently left this campaign.
This is not the first time that Smith has announced plans to quit TV. Smith said she was quitting in 2003 to spend more time as a director of soccer team Norwich City Football Club but returned to TV in 2008.
Smith, who also runs a catering and restaurant company, was estimated in 2011 to be worth 23 million pounds ($36 million) and ranked 10th in a list of the UK's Top 10 female entrepreneurs.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)