Life & Culture

Phyllis, 92, cooks up a storm


Grandmother Phyllis Morgan is about to make her TV debut at 92 as one of the stars of retail expert Mary Portas's show, Mary's Silver Service, which launches on Channel 4 next week.

The programme follows Portas in her quest to bring pensioners back into the workplace and Harrow-based Morgan is one of them.

Her involvement stems from a visit by Channel 4 executives to Jewish Care's Edgware and Harrow Day Centre last summer. "They came up to two of us and said: 'We think you girls would be suitable, grab your handbags and come upstairs,'" she recalls. "There was a fellow upstairs with a camera, and they started asking us questions."

The other lady decided not to take part, but Morgan opted to go ahead.

"Two days later, I was in a big limousine going into town. My son Howard had to come with me to sign the paperwork. You don't go on television just like that."

In the series, Morgan is one of nine pensioners seen working in the hospitality industry with the help of Portas. A former saleswoman, Morgan works as a cook in the show, with Portas as her underchef.

"I was in charge. Mary was my underperson, tearing around and putting bits and pieces together to make the burgers. Then I said: 'You're putting bacon on top of the burgers. I can't be doing that, I'm Jewish.'

"Mary then said at the top of her voice: 'No bacon!'

"I cook ordinary food that Jewish people eat," Morgan says, exemplified by the Shabbat chicken dinners and chicken soup she used to prepare for her sons Howard and Andrew. "I had a family, so I clearly baked."

Her passion for food shines through in our Friday interview, as she pauses our conversation to check she has time to get to her kosher butcher and buy some challah.

The Ilford Synagogue member welcomes Portas's effort to get senior citizens back into the community. "Mary's the sort of person who tries really hard. She's quite a nice person when you meet her. What she says [about pensioners' skills not being fully utilised] is absolutely right."

So is she excited at making her TV debut? "No," replies Morgan firmly.

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