Olivia is a barrister turned writer and cook.
She grew up in Newcastle before reading English at Cambridge. She was elected the twenty-second female president of the Cambridge Union in 2008, and was called to the bar in 2011. She won the Arden Scholarship, and practised as a criminal barrister for five years.
Now, Olivia spends her time writing and cooking. She is The Spectator’s Vintage Chef, and writes about law and popular culture in the New Statesman. In 2017 she graduated from the Cordon Bleu. In September 2017 she won the Young British Foodies Fresh Voices In Food Writing Award, and in April 2019 she was shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason Cookery Writer of the Year Award.
Olivia's memoir, A HALF-BAKED IDEA: How Grief, Love and Cake Took Me from the Courtroom to the Cordon Bleu, was published by Fig Tree in July 2019.
At the moment her mother died, Olivia Potts was baking a cake, badly. She was trying to impress the man who would later become her husband. So she ate the cake, completely unaware that, 275 miles away, her mother was dying.
Afterwards, grief pushed Olivia into the kitchen. She came home from her job as a criminal barrister miserable and tired, and baked soda bread, pizza, and chocolate banana cake. Her cakes sank and her custard curdled. But she found comfort in jams and solace in pies, and what began as a distraction from grief became a way of building a life outside grief, a way of surviving, and making sense of her life without her mum.
And so she concocted a plan: she would begin a newer, happier life, filled with fewer magistrates and more macaroons. She left the bar and enrolled on the Diplôme de Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu, plunging headfirst into the eccentric world of patisserie, with all its challenges, frustrations and culinary rewards - and a mind-boggling array of knives to boot.
Interspersed with recipes ranging from passionfruit pavlova to her mother's shepherd's pie, this is a heart-breaking, hilarious, life-affirming memoir about dealing with grief, falling in love and learning how to bake a really, really good cake.
Praise for A HALF BAKED IDEA:
'Potts's memoir is many things at once: a heart-wrenching yet humorous portrayal of grief, a delicious collection of recipes, an inspirational tale of changing careers, and a feel-good love story.' Vogue
'This is a heart-warming book about death and new beginnings that will delight cake lovers; it manages to be moving, funny and mouth-watering in equal measure – a difficult literary confection to master.' Guardian
'Wit and warmth on every page... a book of courage and consolation.' Laura Freeman, The Times
'This book just springs to life... You're completely held in the hand of a brilliant writer.' Kat Brown, BBC Radio 2
‘An utterly beautiful, moving, bitter-sweet book on love and loss. I loved it.’ Dolly Alderton
'I cannot express how much I adored this book. It made me laugh, cry, salivate and, on no less than four occasions, resolve to learn patisserie and leave the criminal Bar. Olivia Potts has delivered a tender and beautifully written tour-de-force on the four tenets of the human experience; love, grief, hope and cake. If this is not the book of the summer, I will eat my wig. An absolute triumph.' The Secret Barrister
‘I loved it so much. It’s funny, sharp, sad and full of clear observations about food. I laughed so much (and I cried)’ Ella Risbridger, author of Midnight Chicken
'A brilliant, brave and beautiful book: funny and charming; utterly inspiring and life-affirming' Olivia Sudjic
'An honest, brave and funny account of what it is to love, to lose love and how to make macarons' Red
‘An open-hearted, uproariously funny, moving love story. It will make you laugh and cry in equal measure, and fall in love with baking, with eating, and with love itself. A remarkable book by an enormously talented writer’ Kate Young, author of The Little Library Cookbook
‘A Half Baked Idea has been billed as a memoir of ‘grief, love and cake’. If that makes it sound schmaltzy, it isn’t. The author gives short shrift to the five stages theory of grief and exposes the nonsense of the idea that you ever truly ‘get over’ a death. She’s especially good on the juxtaposition of banality (how many pork pies should there be at the wake?) and all-consuming existential horror that anyone who has lost a loved one will recognise.’ Emma Hughes, Country Life