CELEBRITY MasterChef 2018 contestant Stef Reid is a double Paralympic silver medallist and the reigning world champion in the T44 long jump. Born in New Zealand and brought up in Toronto, Canada, she has strong Scottish roots thanks to a Glaswegian father.

Reid, 33, took up para-athletics after she lost her right foot in a boating accident as a teenager. She competes for Great Britain and is married to Canadian T53 wheelchair racing star Brent Lakatos who is a Paralympic gold medallist and 11-time world champion.

Tell us about your cooking background?

When you are an athlete, unless you have the means to employ a full-time private chef, you need to learn how to cook. The only way to control what you eat is to make it yourself. The further down the road I've gone in my career, the more important food has been as a performance tool. MasterChef was an opportunity to take that to another level. I wanted to become a better cook.

Does being an athlete change your approach to the show?

It is easy to make something taste delicious when you load it with butter and salt. I have never cooked that way. I come home starving after training and I don't care how it looks. Being on the show has challenged me to think about food differently.

You grew up in Toronto – a city with a real melting pot of cuisines – did that have an influence?

At my school there was a heavy Asian influence with people from China and Korea, so a lot of that food is familiar to me. I had friends with roots in the Middle East, such as Egypt or Armenia, and would go over to their houses to eat. I have always had different influences and I like exotic food.

Your father is from Glasgow. Has he introduced to any Scottish delicacies?

He did try to sell me on haggis, but it never quite worked. The one thing that sticks was when we would go to the Scottish bakery in Toronto and would have square sausages on a delicious roll. Then, if we were really lucky, my dad would bring home some Irn Bru occasionally.

What are your childhood memories of food?

My parents always cooked at home and threw great dinner parties. If I knew they were having one on a Friday night, I would get up early on Saturday morning and go straight for the leftovers. That was the best.

We always had dinner time together and sat down to eat as a family. The biggest lesson I learned from them is that food is a community thing and an occasion for bringing people to the table. One of the best ways to get people together is to make really good food.

When did you learn to cook?

At university is when I really had to start cooking for myself. It wasn't glamorous in the beginning. The first dinner party I attempted to throw I realised how little I knew. I remember boiling the pasta and turning the heat off, but then didn't get a chance to drain it. I came back to it 10 minutes later, it was still sitting in hot water, and the pasta was mush.

One of the best things about being involved in sport is that you get to travel and sample different cuisines from around the world which not only expands your palate but your creativity.

You didn't live off noodles at university, then?

I have always been a firm believer that eating well doesn't mean tasteless food. People don't believe me when I tell them that salad is genuinely one of my favourite things. I think that if you don't like salad it is because you are doing it wrong and it is too boring.

The two biggest influences from university were the need to eat well and the fact that I studied biochemistry. In a weird way there are a lot of similarities between cooking and being in the lab. You need to follow procedure and that gave me an appreciation for precision.

Pressure really changes things in the kitchen. I have become more confident as I have grown in my cooking but also know that winging it doesn't always work out.

Do you have a signature dish?

Before going on the show, I would probably have said my speciality was eggs because I made them so much. But it is hard to do a fancy main course with eggs, so I had to branch out and upskill.

I spent two years trying to perfect the poached egg. I felt so much better after researching it because, as it turns out, a lot of your success with poaching eggs depends on the freshness. So, my inconsistency may have had nothing to do with me and more the grocery store.

It's date night. What's on the menu?

The real winner from MasterChef is my husband Brent. Now if we have a date night, I would maybe do some duck with a fancy sauce. Perhaps a beef Wellington.

Celebrity MasterChef begins on BBC One, Thursday, 8pm