My earliest food memory... At school, making raspberry buns, which were rock buns with raspberry jam in the middle – they were a bit hard but very tasty. We were taught baking, and those lessons were my first cooking inspiration. You had to bring in your own ingredients; I remember I had a tin with Buckingham Palace on it and the lid didn't quite fit.

My store-cupboard essentials... Aside from basics such as flour, sugar, butter and eggs, I always have some of my own home-made vanilla essence, which I make with vanilla pods and rum, and also some truffle oil. I love truffles, but they're incredibly pricey, so the oil is a great alternative for drizzling.

My top cookbook... The classic French bible Larousse Gastronomique. There's a volume on desserts and it's great because it covers the basics, from sponges to breads, as well as taking you through much more elaborate dishes.

The kitchen appliance I can't live without... My KitchenAid mixer, which I bought for myself as a present after I graduated from Leiths [cookery school]. It's a great shortcut, whether you're kneading bread or making meringues, and the retro design makes it a very sexy-looking machine.

Culinary tip... Have patience and be confident but also, when baking, always follow the recipe to the letter. With other cooking, you can follow your heart, but with baking you have to keep to specifics.

Favourite food shop... I love Borough Market in south London, though I don't go often enough, and also this shop called Le Pascalou in Chelsea. It's like a mini-Borough: it has every single ingredient you could ever wish for – fresh fish and fruit and vegetables – and everything there tastes beautiful.

My top table... Le Gavroche. I've been there about 10 times, and I love it because it's classic French cooking at its best. My favourite dish I've had there is the apple tarte Tatin, which just blew my socks off: the pastry was wonderful and crisp, and the apples were beautifully caramelised and had just the right give to them. And they brought it on a little trolley which was a lovely, quaint touch.

Dream dining companion... Apart from family and friends: Ella Fitzgerald. I would really like to get to know what made her tick and to hear her sing live would be awesome, though it's obviously not going to happen now!

Desert island dish... Beef medallions with cracked black pepper and a Cognac sauce. I designed the dish myself; I love the flavour combinations.

Guilty pleasure... I love really good cheese, especially British ones such as Stilton and cheddar and Stinking Bishop. I could happily eat several packets in one sitting, though it's obviously not very good for the waistline or the heart.

The strangest thing i've eaten... On a six-week gastronomic tour of Asia with my daughter. In Thailand, we came across a little road-side stall selling deep-fried insects. It was a bit grim, but we were ravenous and there was so much batter on them you couldn't really taste anything.

Pet hates... I'm not a fan of grapefruit. I don't really like bitter flavours and I also had a bad experience with it as a child. I raided my mother's cupboard and squeezed a grapefruit and mixed it with vanilla essence, peppermint essence and bicarbonate of soda and then drank it. I think I was ill for about a week.

Tipple of choice... I'm obsessed with sparkling water – my brand of choice is San Pellegrino – but for alcoholic drinks, it's a well-made mojito. They make a really good one in the Big Easy on the King's Road [in Chelsea] – the key is lots of sugar and lots of mint and not too much ice in there. hugh montgomery

Lorraine Pascale is a model-turned-chef and baking expert. Her TV show 'Baking Made Easy' is on BBC Two on Mondays at 8.30pm. Her book of the same name is out now (HarperCollins, £18.99)