A widow from Leeds who found solace in cooking is in the running to be crowned Masterchef.
Two-and-a-half years after losing her husband to cancer, Afsaneh Kaviani, 50, has made it through from 20,000 applicants to the final 12 of the BBC competition.
She said she was overwhelmed when judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode told her she was through.
She said: “I’ve always watched the show and thought I’d love to take part, but MasterChef is a tough competition, and there are some great cooks in this series, so when John and Gregg said my name I was stunned and elated. It meant the world to get through to the final 12.”
The mum of three, from Moortown, said she grew up watching her mother cook in Iran before moving to the UK at 17 and living with her aunt.
She said: “I was always passionate from a very young age but as I cooked more and more, I realised that every time I was in the kitchen I forgot about everything around me and just enjoyed myself.
“Soon, as I looked through more and more cookbooks, recipes began to sink in and my passion grew to the point where I did not want to do anything else but cook.”
A short time after Afsaneh was widowed in September 2009 she was made redundant from her job as a finance officer.
“During the many difficult times in my life, my kitchen has been my sanctuary,” she said.
“Every time I cook, whether it’s a simple meal or a complicated menu when entertaining guests, I fall in love with food in a new way.”
She has passed on her love for food to customers at Marks and Spencer on Harrogate Road in Moortown, where she works as a sales assistant.
She said: “I cannot help but give recipe advice and tips to all the customers.
“It is great feeling when they tell me they tried my recipes and enjoyed them – and even ask for more recipes.”
Afsaneh made it through to the final 12 after impressing the judges with a plate of sweet dessert including baklava, fig fritters and saffron and cardamon ice cream.
Plasterer Tom Rennolds, 26, from Silsden, is also in the final 12.