Starring roles have given way to bread rolls for Lisa Faulkner who now balances her acting career with a new life as a cookbook writer
Since winning Celebrity MasterChef in 2010, life has changed immeasurably for actress Lisa Faulkner. Born in Merton and educated at Tiffin Girls’ school in Kingston, Lisa is best known for her roles in Holby City and Spooks, but a victory over Christine Hamilton and Dick Strawbridge in the final of Celebrity MasterChef has led to a whole new career focused on cooking. Lisa has since written three cookbooks including most recently Tea & Cake.
But what was the whole Celebrity MasterChef experience like? ‘MasterChef was both terrifying and brilliant in equal measures. I had always loved to cook, but for friends and family, and then all of a sudden you have to cook for people that actually judge your cooking. The whole process was quite challenging, but then I like to challenge myself like that and so I would say it made me a better cook. I’ll always be happy I did a show like that.’
Since her victory on the show in 2010 she has developed a whole new career, and I ask her when she first developed a love of cooking? ‘I have been cooking since I was little. I used to cook with Mum and Grandma. Growing up in our house, there was no way we would have been allowed to leave the house without knowing how to cook. It became instinctive and just something we all did together. And just as I do with my daughter Billie, my sister Victoria also cooks with her kids. Billie loves cooking in the kitchen with me and she likes to pretend that she’s got her own
TV show so we will get out all the right ingredients and amounts etc and she’ll talk through what she is doing, similar to what I do on a show like This Morning.’
Lisa was brought up locally and went to Tiffin Girls’ in Kingston, and she still has foodie memories from that time. ‘One memory that sticks in my mind from my time at Tiffin Girls’ school was a particular lesson we had in Home Economics. I can’t remember what the brief was but the rest of the class made fairy cakes and the Home Economics teacher couldn’t understand why I had made stuffed aubergines instead. Every single girl did fairy cakes and I did
aubergines. God knows why. But they were super yummy and it was a recipe I had previously done with my mum.’
Lisa describes her cooking style as ‘family friendly’ and she’s tried to implement it in all her cookery books, with recipes for all seasons, and for all family occasions. ‘It doesn’t matter if you are hosting a dinner party, a Sunday roast, or a kid’s party, there is something in there for everyone,’ she says. Her latest book Tea & Cake sounds like a
sweet-toothed person’s dream and I ask whether she prefers sweet or savoury? ‘It’s quite funny,’ she replies. ‘I like making sweet but I prefer savoury. And my favourite savoury dish would be anything that I can put a roast potato (or two) with. Tea & Cake is about what you can have with a cup of tea. For me, a cup of tea is a moment that I take for myself when I can just relax when the world is going at a million miles an hour around me. But it’s also a special time when you have family and friends over to share that moment with you, where you can ask them if they fancy
a cup of tea and a bit of cake with you? It’s such a simple gesture but a lovely one that I have grown up with. I absolutely adore Earl Grey Tea and will have it at least once a day. My sister Victoria recently made a beautiful Victoria sponge and that works wonderfully with a cuppa.’
But what does she find most enjoyable about writing cookbooks? ‘I love the writing and the cooking – actually I enjoy the whole process. It is one of my favourite things to do. I am just starting work on my fourth cookery book so watch this space…’ And what does her partner John Torode think of the books? ‘Well, of course he loves my cookery books. John [the chef/presenter of MasterChef] and I love to cook together and we like to include the whole family when we can. Because Billie loves to cook, we get her helping out as much as possible (sometimes she stays to help wash up).’
Favourite foodie memory?
Chicken Tarragon made by my mum – it was her recipe and she made it for the first time at one of my birthdays. But
ever since then, I would ask for it at every birthday. And then she would make my favourite sweet dish, profiteroles or pavlva. No one cooked food like my mummy.
Food ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’?
Heaven: anything soft and stinky and cheesy Hell: anything sweet with cinnamon in it. Not a fan.
I don’t actually have a signature dish. As with what I have tried to do with my books, I cook all sorts all the time
for all types of people. But I suppose, what I make more than anything is a roast of some sort because that is my daughter’s favourite food (and mine).
Interview by Paul Critcher