Annoushka welcomes Margie Nomura, renowned chef, food writer, and host of the 'Desert Island Dishes' podcast, to the My Life in Seven Charms series. Margie's culinary journey began after graduating from Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2010, taking her from teaching Zulu women in South Africa to cooking for the late Queen Elizabeth. In 2017, she launched 'Desert Island Dishes' and hosted guests like Michel Roux, Marcus Wareing, and Stanley Tucci. In this episode, the roles are reversed as Annoushka delves into Margie's life, told through seven meticulously designed miniature charms.
Margie's first charm is a nostalgic piece from her childhood, inspired by a sweet shop named Crunchies in Salcombe. Crafted in delicate white gold, it's a tiny three-dimensional sweet, reminiscent of the traditional, paper-wrapped sweets from her past. The pink sapphires create the illusion of pink stripes on the sweet, and it opens as a locket to hold a small photograph or memory. Her next charm is a Japanese cherry blossom reimagined by Annoushka as a broken branch made in yellow gold. Its ‘wibbly wobbly’ shape is three-dimensional with the cherry blossoms made in white gold with pale pink sapphires and a tiny yellow sapphire in the centre. Despite its simplicity, each flower has a textured back and moves as they do so on a real tree. This charm holds deep meaning for Margie, symbolising her husband's half-Japanese heritage and their unforgettable journey that started on the Trans-Siberian Railway, led them to Japan during cherry blossom season, and later graced their UK wedding.
With a shared love of Japan, Annoushka and Margie go on to talk about Japanese food and the amazing feasts Margie would experience among his family, before continuing onto her next charm; a shooting star. It features a white gold star with yellow sapphires and a tail embellished with tiny diamonds, all set inside a yellow gold circle symbolising a planet. The star inside is designed to spin rapidly, mimicking the speed, magic, and movement of a shooting star. This charm represents a pivotal moment in Margie's life. After completing her geography degree at Oxford and pursuing a master's degree in law with dreams of becoming a lawyer, she faced closed doors and uncertainty. Faced with the uphill battle and no job security, she decided to take a holiday to Islay, a breathtaking island off the west coast of Scotland. Surrounded by the island's natural beauty, she found clarity and distance from the pressures of exams and interviews. It was here that she had the chance to discover her true passion; cooking. This led nicely onto Margie’s next charm, a shamrock locket. Designed with four leaves set with graduated tsavorites on the front, with ‘Ballymaloe’ engraved on the back. After making the decision to pursue cooking professionally, she decided to take a leap of faith and apply to Ballymaloe Cookery School. Even though there was a waiting list and the term had already begun, Margie received a phone call within an hour, offering her a spot in the program.
The next charm discussed is one that signifies Margie’s biggest failure; a banana skin charm. Crafted in yellow gold, it mirrors a banana peel, complete with burnished edges, the skin peeled back, and a hint of brown on the gold edges. The white gold section inside represents the uneaten part of the banana, while a tiny seed pearl dangles from the end, adding playful movement. Margie's banana peel charm symbolises her ambitious banana-based ice cream business. Although it enjoyed some success, it eventually closed due to unforeseen challenges. She discovered that having the courage to walk away from an unfulfilling or unsuccessful venture can be a valuable lesson, highlighting the growth that can emerge from adversity.
The final charm they dive into is a musical stave. Crafted in white gold and decorated with black diamonds, it pays homage to her husband's musical background as an opera singer. Interestingly, opera played a role in bringing them back together when her mother and stepdad serendipitously ran into him at Glyndebourne. Her mother had a hunch that he was "the one," and it turned out to be true as they rekindled their connection. Opera has been a significant part of Margie's life, and she hopes her two young daughters will inherit a better sense of musicality than she has. She introduces them to music every day, seeing it as a source of self-confidence and personal growth. Her final charm is an ode to her podcast, Desert Island Dishes. It’s a beautiful gold heart with an intricately designed three-dimensional palm tree. The tree features a slightly curved trunk, textured markings, and leaves made of white gold adorned with small diamonds. Each leaf is articulated to allow movement. At the end of one branch, there's a tiny carved pink tourmaline heart. The back of the leaves is engraved with "Desert Island Dishes,". Her podcast concept sparked during a spontaneous driving trip. Within two weeks, she trademarked the name and recorded her first episode, initially treating it as a passion project. As the podcast flourished, Margie realised its potential. Her dream was to create a vibrant food community and a multifaceted platform, focusing on stories beyond just food.
Margie’s story is one that blends her culinary adventures, serendipitous encounters and personal growth with the themes of love, music, and family. Each charm acts as a tangible marker for a significant chapter in her personal journey. Charms, like memories, hold the power to narrate our stories, and for Margie, the shooting star charm stands as a symbol of her life's turning point; her chosen charm to be made by Annoushka. Listen to the full conversation on the My Life in Seven Charms podcast here.