Nigel Slater is keen on cooking while his mother (Victoria Hamilton) is a poor cook with chronic asthma. As her illness worsens, so does Nigel's relationship with his father (Ken Stott). After Nigel's mother dies, his father begins to spend his evenings with newly divorced cleaner Mrs Potter (Helena Bonham Carter), whose signature lemon meringue pie is a hit with Mr Slater. The two embark on a relationship, and soon move to the country with Nigel, who dislikes his father's new partner.
Nigel finds solace in home economics classes at school, and uses his improved culinary skills to gain his father's affections, thus becoming Mrs Potter's rival. The excessive food causes Mr Slater to gain weight and become more temperamental. Nigel soon lands a job in the kitchen of his local pub to avoid Mrs Potter, and falls in love with the landlady's son; the relationship is cut short when the latter leaves town.
When Mr Slater dies, Nigel's mind is set as he packs a bag for London, leaving Mrs Potter behind, and arrives at The Savoy Hotel where he is offered a job as a chef.