Fans of the popular BBC show Britain’s Best Home Cook will have noticed a familiar accent when the programme hit our screens for a brand new series last week.
Suzie Arbuthnot (36), an accountant from Lisburn, is the only contestant from Northern Ireland on this year’s series and she has certainly been showing off her abilities in the kitchen, with her very first dish being chosen by new judge Angela Hartnett as her favourite in the opening episode.
A former student of Wallace High School in Lisburn, Suzie is married to husband Steven, a full time A-Level psychology teacher at Omagh Academy. The couple have two young children - Zander, who turns five on January 18, and Odelia will be two years old on January 19.
Suzie is certainly no stranger to the kitchen, with her family running a popular Chinese takeaway, Man Lee, in Lisburn for many years.
“I was born and raised in the takeaway,” admitted Suzie, who also plays hockey for Lisnagarvey Hockey Club and sings with Lisburn Harmony Ladies Choir. “From the age of seven from when I could hold a knife I was working in the kitchen for pocket money, chopping onions, de-boning chicken, and then when I was ten and old enough to see over the counter I was able to serve customers at the front, and I loved talking to everyone.
“I loved food and cooking, even the basics in school like HE. In fifth form I completed applications for Prue Leith and Cordon Bleu but my mum passed away in my GCSE year and everything fell apart.”
Suzie stayed on at school to finish her A Levels and never made it to the Cordon Bleu School but her passion for food and cooking has never left her.
After studying at Queen’s University, Suzie tried her hand at a host of careers, from PR to auditing and most recently she set up her own accountancy firm from home.
However she still loves cooking and baking and is never far from the kitchen, much to the delight of her family and friends.
In fact it was a friend who encouraged her to put her passion for cooking to the test by applying for the popular BBC show Britain’s Best Home Cook.
“Someone tagged me in a Facebook post, which had a link to an application form,” Suzie explained,
“It was literally the last day of applications in the middle of the night and I was really lucky to get through all the stages.
“After the paper application, I had a phone interview, then a face to face meeting in Northern Ireland when I had to make a savoury dish and a sweet dish. I decided to make two different varieties of sausage rolls - a Christmas one and a breakfast version,
“I am really well known in my family for my sticky toffee pudding so I made it into a cake. I also had to stand in front of a camera to see whether I could talk.
“I waited a while and then got a phone call to invite me to London for a live real time cooking demonstration. When I got the final phone call to tell me I had made it through, it was my last day of work in my old job, it was January 31 and the middle of tax return season, and I went out to the car park to scream. It was really exciting.”
This isn’t the first time that Suzie has applied for a television show, however, Two years ago she almost made it onto the small screen in the Great British Bake Off.
“I was first reserve,” she explained. “I kept hoping someone would drop out but after the third episode they called to say they didn’t need me. I was devastated that I wouldn’t be involved but everything happens for a reason.”
And now Suzie’s time has come and she is already making an impact on the show, which sees ten contestants, who all live together in a house during filming, compete for the title of Best Home Cook.
“I hadn’t met any of the other contestants before we started filming,” explained Suzie. “The house was gigantic so there was enough space for everyone. The days filming were very long so you just wanted to go to your room and chill.”
In the first episode Suzie made her mark and proved that producers had made the right decision by inviting her to be part of the show.
Many viewers will wonder if the contestants are really the same as they appear on television, or has the show been edited in a certain way, but Suzie is definite that what you see on screen is exactly the same as she is in person.
“That is totally how I am on the TV. For me, it’s a very true reflection of how I am. I was hoping they would cut some of the things I said but they didn’t. My friends call me a Tasmanian Devil because I do everything at 100 miles an hour, which definitely shows on the TV.
“It has been a lovely experience. I do a lot of stuff for other people but this was just for me. I felt guilty being away from my children but for a while I wasn’t a mother, a wife, an employee, I was just me. I was just Suzie and I got to be me and do something I love.”
Viewers will have to tune in to find out how far Suzie gets in the show, but for now she is hoping that it might lead to her being able to turn her hobby into a career.
“I would love to do something with cookery,” she confessed. “I always dreamed that I would save up enough money to open a coffee shop. And I would definitely love to publish a cookery book, if that was ever a possibility.”
To find out how Suzie got on in the show, tune into Britain’s Best Home Cook on BBC1 on Thursdays at 8pm.