Lancashire Life - - FOOD & DRINK - WORDS: Sue Riley Š PHOTOGRAPH­Y: John Cocks

Irini Tzort­zoglou’s life in the quiet old Lan­cashire vil­lage of Cart­mel took a dra­matic turn when she won TV’S Masterchef

Among the dozens of greet­ings cards in Irini Tzort­zoglou’s home, one stands out: ‘Stop Be­ing So Good At Stuff, it makes the rest of us look bad.’ And it stands out be­cause peo­ple seem to be gen­uinely in­spired and de­lighted by Irini’s ‘jour­ney’ to be­come this year’s Masterchef win­ner.

Mil­lions watched the 61-yearold on BBC as she cried and strug­gled her way through the heats un­til she was in the show’s first all-female fi­nal. In each pro­gramme her pos­i­tiv­ity shone through. ‘Peo­ple em­pathised with me, that I was try­ing to do my

best and at an age still want­ing to do some­thing and im­prove… most of the mes­sages I have got, they are about me inspiring them more than my food.

‘All my hard work, my tears, my joy seemed to touch peo­ple. I am so lucky to do what I do, to have so much joy and to give joy,’ she says.

Life changed for Irini in March when the Masterchef fi­nal aired, three months af­ter film­ing ended. ‘I have been too busy to eat since win­ning,’ she says. ‘Ev­ery­one is say­ing how well and look, I glow and I feel beau­ti­ful be­cause that’s how my heart feels.’

Those who watched the pro­gramme know that Irini had a ru­ral up­bring­ing in Greece where she de­vel­oped an early affin­ity with food. She moved to Lon­don in her 20s and worked in bank­ing. In 2000 she mar­ried her hus­band, John, and be­came a step­mother to three chil­dren and even­tu­ally three grand­chil­dren. The cou­ple re­lo­cated to the old Lan­cashire vil­lage of Cart­mel in 2010 and, af­ter spend­ing a while run­ning a busi­ness sell­ing ex­clu­sive Greek prop­er­ties, they threw them­selves into vil­lage life.

Ev­ery cou­ple of months Irini flies to Crete to be with her mother for a few weeks; one of the rea­sons she gave up full time

Masterchef win­ner Irini Tzort­zoglou proudly holds her tro­phy at her home in Cart­mel

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