SHE once snubbed the chance to do it, but Lisa Maxwell has told of her delight at conquering her fears and signing up for Celebrity MasterChef.
It was back in Lisa’s days as DI Sam Nixon on The Bill that bosses of the hit cookery show presented by John Torode and Gregg Wallace came calling.
“I actually laughed when I heard I’d been asked,” Lisa, 54, told iN10.
“I thought they must have made a mistake and that it was ridiculous. I said no, fearing I’d make myself look really silly.
“On some TV shows where you need a skill set you can get by and fudge it a bit, but this is a serious cookery contest.
“Out of respect to Gregg and John and those who do take it seriously, I thought I just shouldn’t be turning up without any real skills.”
But things have moved on and Lisa, who has daughter Beau with husband Paul, confesses that family matters played a big part in her saying yes this time round.
“I’m in my 50s now, I’m probably going to have grandchildren one day soon-ish – no pressure on my daughter! – and I need to be able to cook a family meal without stressing everybody out.
“The best way for me to engage my brain to learn something is to put the fear of God into myself. It’s strange, but I’ve always been a bit like that.”
Even then, Lisa sought a second opinion before signing on the dotted line.
She spent an afternoon with a friend who runs a catering business to get some expert insight into her potential.
The verdict was that she was a nervous wreck, but had a good sense of flavour combinations that should serve her well if she could master a few basic skills along the way.
What came as a real shock was being thrust right into the white-hot heat of a professional restaurant kitchen.
“Nobody pulls any punches,” says Lisa.
“I thought they couldn’t really give our food to people who are paying money – what have they done to deserve that?
“And when I get nervous I tend to talk a lot and I got told off by the chef.
“Actually, since I’ve been on the show, I’ve become a bit of a back-seat chef.
“When we’re invited round to someone’s house for dinner I’ll say things like, ‘If you put this herb into that it’ll give it a bit of a kick’ and I usually get told to shut up.”
Lisa is in the fourth and final week of heats alongside AJ Pritchard, Jay Blades, Stella Parton and Clara Amfo.
With Beau, who’s a bit of a cook himself, just heading off to university, Lisa is glad to have picked up a real life skill, her only regret being that it wasn’t something she mastered years ago.
She has turned down most reality shows but says she was always a fan of MasterChef and realises now just how loved it is.
There is, she admits, one other show that she’d be thrilled to have come calling.
“I would love to do Strictly – maybe they need an old bird who can still get her legs up!”
Lisa has also appeared in Hollyoaks since leaving The Bill.
She turned her hand very neatly to being a regular panellist on Loose Women and has devoted a lot of time recently to her long-running role as an ambassador with homeless charity Centrepoint.
But she admits she’d love to tackle more acting roles.
“I get offered tours a lot but I’ve always maintained that the work-life balance is really important for me,” adds Lisa.
“I know it sounds privileged, like I only work when I want to, but that’s not the case. I still need to work but I have to make sure I’m not away from home all the time.
“I’m not happy when that’s the case. Working on Loose Women was one of the happiest things I’ve ever done, but it really spoiled me.
“Because it’s live, I was finished at 1.30pm and then I was home and enjoying being part of the family.”
Celebrity MasterChef, BBC1, Thursday, 8pm.