By Liza Hamm
Updated February 08, 2013 01:15 PM
Credit: Simon Upton

One day British cook Nigella Lawson found herself inspired while watching an episode of MTV Cribs.

“I saw Missy Elliott had the world’s biggest fridge, and I thought, ‘One day I’ve got to have that fridge!’ ” says Lawson, as she gestures toward the 7-ft.-tall Sub-Zero appliance at one end of her expansive London kitchen.

“So it’s called the Missy Elliott Memorial Fridge. It is so huge, but I love it.”

In recent weeks, however, Lawson, 53, has barely been around to cook from the vast quantities of food stored inside. Along with promoting her new Italian cookbook Nigellissima in the U.K. and preparing for a U.S. book tour, Lawson has been starring as a judge and mentor on ABC’s new reality cooking competition The Taste, providing the compassionate counterpoint to Anthony Bourdain’s acerbic wit.

“When I’m doing my own shows, I have total control,” she says, “but I felt drawn to do reality TV – and a little frightened.” And a little exhausted. Given her whirlwind start to the new year, “I’d like to take a little time off and be a normal person at home and cook.”