“He changed our lives as a family.”
A mum-of-three who formed a friendship with film and television celebrity Michael Winner, after appearing on his TV show, has paid tribute to him.
Justine Forrest from Longridge, near Preston, won the food critic’s competition Michael Winner’s Dining Stars three years ago.
Today she told how the star, who died on Monday, had changed their lives.
The food critic joined Justine, her husband Chris, 43, and three children Millie, 16, Alex, 15, and Christopher, 11, for the show.
Millie has cerebral palsy and Christopher was born with half a heart.
After the show, Justine went on to launch a brownie company after Michael ‘discovered’ the tasty treat – a last minute addition to her contest menu.
She said: “He was wonderful to us as a family and he empathised with the children.
“He was really touched by us and I think that is probably why he kept in contact.
“Every once in a while, I would get a phone call or a letter or a book. Last time I spoke to him, it was in an email, and that was about two months ago.”
She added: “I started my brownie business because of Michael. Just recently I have written a book. He was the one that gave me the confidence to write the book.
“I am going to miss him terribly.
“He changed our lives as a family.
“I had lost ten stone when I met him and I carried on.
“I was more determined to do something with my life, I got pushed into the brownies, he guided me and encouraged me to write a book and helped me into the cooking world.
“We are just a little family from Longridge, we are very normal. He really opened my eyes. I think he liked us because we’re normal.”
Justine’s book Justine’s Journey comes out in the spring.
She said: “Every year he had a new book out and would send me a copy, but I won’t be able to say to him ‘this time I’m sending you a copy of my book’.”
She added: “If he felt something wasn’t right he said it like it was.
“I liked that because I’m not like that.”