British TV cook Lawson can reapply for US visa after entry refusal

LONDON, April 3 Thu Apr 3, 2014 11:38am EDT

LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) - U.S. officials invited British chef Nigella Lawson on Thursday to reapply for a visa to enter the United States after the television celebrity was barred for boarding a flight last weekend.

According to the Daily Mail newspaper, Lawson, dubbed the "Domestic Goddess" after the title of one of her cookery books, was prevented from flying to the United States because she had confessed to taking drugs during a recent court battle with her former assistants.

A spokeswoman from the U.S. Embassy in London confirmed Lawson had been refused entry but declined to provide an explanation, adding the chef was welcome to reapply for travel documents.

"We have invited her to come and apply for a visa," she said.

Lawson made headlines globally when she told a London court she had taken cocaine several times and smoked cannabis at the end of her 10-year marriage to art dealer Charles Saatchi.

British police decided not take any action against the 54-year-old following her admission which was made during the trial of her two former assistants who were later cleared of charges of defrauding the couple of 685,000 pounds ($1.12 million).

But when Lawson went to London's Heathrow airport on Sunday to catch a flight to Los Angeles, she was told she would not be allowed on the flight and returned home, according to the Daily Mail newspaper.

A spokesman for Lawson declined to comment on the story, whether Lawson was turned away or on how this could affect her career in the United States, where she is judge on the talent show "The Taste".

Lawson could not herself immediately be reached for comment.

The trial of the two assistants, sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, fascinated Britain with lurid tales of drug use, lavish spending and marital bullying. The Italian sisters alleged that Lawson used cocaine, cannabis and prescription pills daily for over a decade.

The trial followed Lawson and Saatchi's divorce last July. Their marriage fell apart after Saatchi was photographed clasping his wife's throat at a restaurant in London's Mayfair.

Lawson is currently starring in TV cookery contest show "The Taste" broadcast in both Britain on Channel 4 and in the United States on Walt Disney Co's ABC network. (Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Angus MacSwan)