Champion home cook Suzie Lee has upgraded her breadmaking and vinyl tile flooring game

1 Up and down – what’s your new morning routine? How has it changed?

Before the lockdown, I was up at 5:45 a.m. and at the gym at 6:15 a.m. / 6:30 a.m., depending on whether I had a spin class or not. Now it’s about 6:30 am because my little girl is an early riser – she sings loudly every morning until I get up.

2 What could you eat on a typical work day for …

Breakfast? Porridge with berries and honey.

Having lunch? I love a warm lunch, so often it’s leftovers from dinner the night before.

Dinner? Another hot meal and whatever I want to cook – I experimented a lot more with different cooking techniques after winning Best Home Cook in 2020. I’ve improved my bread-baking skills, which I’m very excited about.

3 Were you able to work from home – if so, how did you find it?

When Lockdown hit number one, it was a month after winning Best Home Cook and I had some nice, exciting things organized that never came about at the time. As a self-employed auditor, I had no work at all in the first three months of the suspension because my clients had stopped doing business. It was a very strange time. But then, in May, I was very fortunate to land my own TV series, Suzie Lee’s Home Cook Heroes, on BBC Northern Ireland.

4 best / easiest lockdown meal?

Seafood! I love seafood and during the lockdown, fresh, local fish became more accessible due to home deliveries. Seafood is so quick and easy to cook, and it’s just so delicious.

5 weekend pleasure?

We love a good burger and we recently visited a great place in Moira where you can order and pick up – they created the most delicious ‘KFC Korean Fried Chicken’ burgers. Leigh Ferguson, the owner and chef, is extremely talented and a past chef on the Great British Menu.

6 How did you keep yourself physically and mentally fit during the lockdown?

I found it very difficult for the first six weeks and was completely at a loss as to what to do with myself. I’ve never had so much time. I didn’t have the structure of fitness classes and hockey games, so it was difficult for me to motivate myself to exercise. Then about eight weeks later I started taking online courses led by Aimee Oliver and that helped tremendously both physically and mentally.

7 What was your daily outdoor exercise?

Running, walking and cycling with the family. We invested in a bicycle seat for our two year old and were able to go on longer bike rides every day as our five year old (Zander) became a more confident cyclist.

8 How do you relax?

Cooking and baking, a bath with good music and something warm and fuzzy that you can see on TV – with a cup of coffee and a roll. I’m a pretty simple person.

9 total tea or tipple?

You could call me a tea teller, but I like a small sip and enjoy a glass of good wine. But I’m a one-drink miracle – I easily become the sleepy person in the corner.

10 which book do you read?

I don’t read anything right now, but I have a mile-long list waiting for me after doing my accounting work.

11 best Netflix?

I love their romcoms, but when I watch TV with my husband we definitely watch a crime / thriller series.

12 The most surprising thing you learned about yourself?

That I really love working on TV and in a million years I would never have thought I’d say that. The experience of being on Best Home Cook and now doing my second series with BBC Northern Ireland by Suzie Lee’s Home Cook Heroes has been so much fun.

13 Where have you been on a scale from one to ten for cabin fever and where are you now?

I’d say 11 … I lost the plot around the sixth week of the lockdown. I think the realization of knowing normalcy wouldn’t be back anytime soon, scared me. I am a “hyper” person and my personality longs for the company of others. I’m always out for work, lunch, the gym, choir, hockey and many other things. I got the glimmer of new food-related activities after winning Best Home Cook in February when they were canceled. Devastated was an understatement. When I started having a more structured exercise routine, I felt like myself again.

14 What are the three things that you missed the most when you started lockdown?

Hanging out with family and friends, weekly practice with the Lisburn Harmony Ladies Choir and group exercise classes.

15 Where will you go and what will you do when the restrictions are completely removed?

Well, I’d love to take the kids to Florida and go to Disney World, but realistically, a trip to Portballintrae will be more than enough.

16 Biggest point of criticism?

People who don’t listen to government guidelines and still have parties.

17 Have your priorities in life or your perspectives changed?

I have always lived by the mantras “no regrets” and “live to the fullest” and these have not changed. I probably feel even stronger with them now that life is too short.

18 Any new skills or hobbies?

We renovated our house so the new skills include laying vinyl tile floors, cutting insulation board, plasterboard …

19 What would you like to change forever when it’s all over?

The choice of flexible working from home.

20 Has Coronavirus Changed Your Attitude About Your Own Mortality?

After losing my mom at the age of 16, I think my entire approach to life and mortality has changed. I believe when your time is up, it is up, so I try to make the most of every single day.

:: Suzie Lee’s new three-part series: Home Cook Hero airs on Wednesdays at 7.30pm on BBC One Northern Ireland. Find out more about BBC iPlayer.

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