Alumni engagement and philanthropy


21 February 2020

Suzie Arbuthnot, a County Antrim Chartered Accountant who graduated with a BSc in Economics and Management from Queen’s in 2006, has baked, sautéed and roasted her way to victory in the BBC’s Best Home Cook.  

The hit TV show is hosted by Strictly Come Dancing’s Claudia Winkleman and judged by Mary Berry, Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett and produce expert Chris Bavin.

Suzie, a former reserve contestant for The Great British Bake Off, founded Queen's University Economics and Management Society (2006) and served as President of Queen's Ladies Hockey Club (2003-05) when she was at University. She made it through to the final of Best Home Cook after preparing and cooking canapés and tuna fishcakes - and a Paris-Brest choux pastry dessert in the eliminator against all three of her fellow contestants - having wowed the judges with her steak and stout pie in the previous week’s quarter final. In the final, she served salmon tail two ways in the Rustle Up, then spinach and ricotta tortellini with a hazelnut pesto in the Eliminator, before cooking a 3-course chicken dinner to claim the culinary title.  

Best Home Cook is filmed in two locations in the south of England, Pinewood Studios in London and at a Victorian mansion in Ascot, Berkshire. Each week the cooks have to create an ultimate home favourite and an improvised dish around a single ingredient, to impress the judges and avoid the eliminator, which is adjudicated blind and results in the loser going home.

Speaking to Shaun Keenan in Belfast Live, Suzie said: "Cooking has pretty much always been in my life, that's why I have such a passion for it.

"My family owns a takeaway called Man Lee in Lisburn and as soon as I could properly hold a knife I was involved in the business, earning my pocket money and just helping out really.

"And from the age of about seven I was chopping and peeling vegetables and when I reached the age of 10 I was tall enough to see over the counter, so I was promoted and was able to serve customers.

"But it has always been a part of my life and I would always help my parents out with it."

A qualified Chartered Accountant, Suzie began her training with BDO in Belfast, working for a number of different companies and organisations for eight years – including ArjoHuntleigh and PGR Chartered Accountants – before going self-employed in February 2019.

Mother of two young children, Suzie now runs her own business – SA Accountancy Services – from home, plays hockey for Lisnagarvey, sings with Lisburn Harmony Ladies Choir and exercises in her spare time, all to make sure she packs as much as possible into every day.

Somehow she also finds time to volunteer her services to others. Since 2017 Suzie has been treasurer in the Wave Trauma Centre, having previously held the same role at the Northern Ireland Children's Enterprise (NICE) for almost 17 years, while also serving as Chairperson of the Chartered Accountants Ireland Students’ Society Ulster from 2011-12.

Despite having a lifelong passion for cooking, Suzie almost missed the deadline for submitting applications. In her conversation with Belfast Live she revealed that she received a last minute reminder about the closing date for the BBC show via social media.  

"My friend tagged me in a post on Facebook on the final day for applications and at the time I was having a really bad day at work.

"I was only back from maternity leave and I thought 'Why not?' and so I filled out a full-blown paper application.

"A few days later I had a phone interview and then a face-to-face meeting in Northern Ireland where I had to make a savoury dish and a sweet dish.

"The process also involved standing in front of a camera to see whether I could talk."

For enquiries about this story or to submit your graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO), Queen’s University Belfast, on telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 5321.

Photo credit (main image): BBC | Headline image: Suzie Artbuthnot 

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