You may recognise the fabulous Lorna Robertson from this year’s season of Masterchef. Her creative dishes and loveable, no nonsense personality made her an easy favourite on the show - and ultimately landed her a place in the final. Today, she chats to Life of Zola about her food inspirations, hosting a dream dinner party, and the signature red lip we all went a bit crazy for!

We absolutely adored you on Masterchef! Where did your love for cooking come from, and did you always know it could turn into a career?

Well I’ve always loved cooking, just about more than anything! I think it’s in my genetics - my dad started out as a chef in the army, then progressed to being a professional chef and now teaches a professional catering course. I didn’t grow up with him so he never actually got a chance to teach me any skills but it was definitely in my blood! 

I actually toyed with going to catering college over university and becoming a professional chef a one stage so I seriously thought about turning it into a career. I’m not a work shy person by any stretch of the imagination, but the long hours and pretty low pay seriously put me off! Then I thought, how else can I turn food into a career? Another love of mine is writing so the prospect of combining the two seemed like a no brainer! Now I’ve gone full circle and I’m considering the actual cooking side of things which is terrifying but equally exciting. 

Seasonal cooking is really important to you and the menus you create. What are the benefits of cooking with produce that’s in season? 

You’re right, cooking seasonal produce is really important to me, mainly because it’s the most natural thing you can do! We’re so used to being able to get just about any fruit or vegetable throughout the year now thanks to supermarkets, which is great, but most of the time they are a watered down version of what they should be.  A strawberry is in season in summer and is truly delicious! Packed with so much flavour and sweetness, it’s the best version of a strawberry so why bother with the watery versions you can buy in December? For me anyway, ingredients that are currently in season are usually what I fancy most. You don’t tend to get cravings for a light salad on a miserable November night when it’s cold and rainy outside, you want a big hearty stew or soup. 

What do you wish you could tell your younger self about the post-uni work ‘hustle’? Any challenges you’ve had to overcome during your career journey? 

I wish that I could tell myself not to compare myself to others or judge my success on what my peers were doing. Everyone has different goals and ambitions and it’s very easy to feel like you’re not achieving because your friends are off doing fabulous things. Social media can be a big factor in this but it’s important to bear in mind that someone’s Facebook or Instagram feed is the highlights of their life. It’s highly unlikely that someone will post if they have been rejected from a job or not kept on after an internship, however they will be delighted to announce a promotion or new job - and rightly so! 

During my career journey I’ve actually been very lucky. I didn’t have a plan when I finished university and ended up moving back home. Although it wasn’t ideal, I ended up being able to start my career in journalism and PR while still having some of the creature comforts which was lovely! Being in the right place at the right time and being tenacious played a big role in my career success so far, but luck was definitely on my side!

Imagine you’re hosting the dinner party of your dreams and you can only invite 3 people - past or present. Who would they be? 

The Queen would have to be there without a doubt! I absolutely love the Royal Family and have so much respect for The Queen. My second guest would be Nigella Lawson because quite simply she is an absolute goddess. Number three would be my lovely mum! She is such an inspiration to me every day and has always encouraged me to do exactly what I want as long as it makes me happy. Also, she is the best pot washer and table setter I know so she would be in the kitchen with me! 

Aside from being fans of your exceptional culinary skills, I know there are a lot of us who are fans of your signature red lip. What are your go-to makeup products?

 I am such a fan of makeup and beauty! My first go-to makeup product is Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation. I have never used a better foundation and it is worth every penny. My second is Urban Decay setting spray - come rain or shine it ensures that my makeup won’t budge a millimetre. And finally my list wouldn’t be complete without a bit of red lipstick! Mac liquid lipstick is the best I’ve used and will stay put all day without fading, bleeding or drying out your lips.

Could you give us some inspiration for the ultimate midnight snack?

Oooh that’s a tricky one, I love a midnight snack! For me it’s got to be carb based and it doesn’t get much better than a toasted onion bagel with one half kept plain and simple with proper butter, and the other smothered in a shed load of full fat cream cheese and crispy fried onions. Delicious! 

You’ve lived in Nottingham, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, and you’ve now settled in London. Do you have a particular favourite food spot here? 

Borough Market is definitely up there. It is quite pricey but I could (and do) spend hours just wandering around and looking at all of the wonderful produce and dishes on offer. Also, there is a lot of free bread and oil on offer for when hunger inevitably takes over! 

Which three songs are on your cooking playlist?

I have the most horrendous taste in music that mainly revolves around naughties girl groups! A bit of Pussycat Dolls would definitely be in there and Beyonce is without a doubt a must. I am also a huge Taylor Swift fan so some of her earlier songs would definitely be on my playlist. 

And finally, where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

That’s so tough! Five years ago I had just turned 18 years old and could never have imagined that I would have achieved what I have. If I am still doing something foodie I will be a very happy gal.

You can find out more about Lorna Robertson here: https://www.lornarobertsonfood.com 


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