Northern Ireland

Lisburn accountant wins Best Home Cook title

Suzie Arbuthnot
Image caption Suzie Arbuthnot won Best Home Cook on Thursday

A County Down woman who swapped accounts for the chopping board has been named Best Home Cook in a TV cooking competition.

Suzie Arbuthnot, 36, claimed the top prize on the BBC show after eight weeks of difficult challenges, seeing off nine other contestants.

Judges Mary Berry, Chris Bevan and Angela Hartnett were impressed with the Lisburn woman's cooking throughout.

Chris Bevan described the chartered accountant as an "incredible cook".

"Her food, everything about her, is absolutely tremendous," he added.

"We are there to choose Britain's best home cook and we've loved every minute of it and I think we've come to the right conclusion," said Mary Berry.

Image caption The judges were impressed by Suzie's final three-course meal

Speaking to BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster on Friday, Ms Arbuthnot said the final was filmed last March.

"If anybody knows me, they know I like to talk, so for me to keep that a secret has been very hard," she said.

"Everybody thought that I was away to London for work during that period, so that was it."

Ms Arbuthnot said her skills were honed early on in her family's takeaway in Lisburn.

"My family are Chinese, my mum and dad came over from Hong Kong in the 1980s," she said.

"From there we have owned our takeaway, so from the age of about seven, I was able to hold a knife and chop onions and carrots and all that kind of stuff, so I have been immersed in food from very young age."

Image caption Suzie in action on Britain's Best Home Cook

Aged 16, Ms Arbuthnot had to step into the role of the cook for the family, when her mother passed away.

"My older sisters were away to university and working across the water and I was left with my brother, so I pretty much cook home meals every day," she said.

"It's just something you had to deal with and I've had over 20 years now of cooking for a family.

"My mum inspired me, because she was just fabulous, self-taught and I learned a lot from her," she added.

Image caption Suzie triumphed with a roast chicken dinner after eight weeks of challenges

She cooked a beetroot and goat's cheese tartlet, herb-roasted chicken dinner and sticky toffee cake to finish for her winning three-course meal.

The mother-of-two said she had not ruled out a change of career from her current job.

"I don't know, let's see," she said.

'Don't give up'

"At 16, before my mum passed away, I had filled out forms for cookery schools in London and she was saying, 'do your GCSEs first and if you still have a real passion afterwards, then we'll send you'," she said.

"Obviously, that didn't happen, because she passed away in the February of my GCSE year, my world was turned upside down and I ended up continuing through education."

And she had some advice for budding cooks.

"I see some people looking in the fridge or cupboard and saying they don't have anything or they can't make anything," she said.

"You can combine the two, the dry and the wet or frozen ingredients, there's always a meal there, don't give up."

If you missed the final you can catch up on the BBC iPlayer here.