Lisa Faulkner: The actress-turned-food broadcaster and writer talks McDonald's, sea urchins and roast-dinner cuddles

 

Winning 'Celebrity Masterchef' changed my life People usually go on to that show to have a nice time, but then go back to their day job. But I fell so in love with the cooking, I didn't want to stop. Since I won, I've worked in a number of kitchens, such as [London restaurant] Smiths of Smithfield, and published several cookery books. It's so nice to be doing a job where I'm not worrying whether the phone is going to ring [with an acting job].

The only good thing about modelling was eating out at restaurants I was 16 when I became a model and most of the time I couldn't be bothered to eat food: I was more interested in having cocktails and smoking fags – life was very different. I was told to lose weight but I never listened. A few of us would hang out at McDonald's and eat burgers together. But when I travelled around the world I'd eat at beautiful restaurants and eat amazing food.

Sea urchin is probably the weirdest thing I ate It's a spiky-looking thing with a horrid-tasting juice inside. I was at this big Japanese banquet when I was 17, and got served it. All the hosts were looking at me and waiting for me to eat it, but I was thinking, "What the hell is that?" It tasted like a combination of TCP and salt.

The kitchen is where I feel safe My mother [who died from throat cancer when Faulkner was 16] was an amazing cook and I have this memory as a kid, playing in our kitchen, and hearing this click-clicking noise as her ring would hit the glass rolling pin she used. I've still got that rolling pin. And when I use it now to roll my own pastries, sometimes I'll keep a ring on to hear that click-click; it reminds me of the smells of that kitchen.

My cooking always matches my mood When I'm feeling sad I like to make a roast dinner. It's like a great big cuddle on a plate and when I'm making it, I feel a sense of calm. Cooking is the only time I don't tend to worry about stuff.

keep your shoulders back and don't follow the crowd It's what my mum said to me, though I didn't really understand it until 10 years ago: you might sometimes want to be like everyone else, but do what you want to do. I just wish that I'd understood that fully when I was 16.

I thought I was going to get pregnant with IVF I was so completely positive that it didn't cross my mind that it wasn't going to work. Usually you have a wonderful bundle that comes out at the end of it, and makes all the physical and emotional effects of the treatment worth it. So when it didn't work, it hit me like a tonne of bricks. In the end, I got my bundle, but just in a different way [Faulkner adopted her daughter, Billie, when she was 15 months old; she is now seven].

Billie reconnects me to the memory of my mother The other day she said to me, "I want cauliflower cheese and roast chicken and roast potatoes." So Billie was helping me make the cauliflower-cheese sauce, chopping bits of garlic and leeks, adding salt and pepper and she said, "Mummy, you're going be my taster on this one." It's so cute.

I like to keep my relationship private [Faulkner began dating MasterChef co-presenter John Torode two years ago.] You have to look after relationships, and when you're having a nice time you don't want to have to talk about it. Though he would say that worrying is my worst habit.

Lisa Faulkner, 40, is best known for her roles in 'Holby City' and 'Spooks'. She now presents Channel 4 cookery programme 'What's Cooking?'. Her second book, 'The Way I Cook…', is out now (£20, Simon & Schuster)

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