As mother of multi-gold medal winning paralympian Kadeena Cox, Jasmin Cox-Williams is used to bursting with pride.
But when her daughter, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was crowned Celebrity MasterChef champion, it was a special moment.
“I was very nervous watching her,” admits Jasmin, 51, from Chapeltown, Leeds. “She has always helped with the cooking but that’s when it isn’t against the clock. On MasterChef she had to cook very quickly and I know she struggled with some of the dishes due to her MS. I was a bit worried about her cutting herself as the MS causes dystonia which means her hands don’t always work properly. I was worried she may have no fingers left by the end.
“I was so proud of her as I always am in everything she does.”
Kadeena, 30, developed MS after suffering a stroke while she was at university aged just 21.
She was already an established sprinter with a number of accolades to her name. But then when she was 21 and studying physiotherapy at Manchester University she fell ill.
“She’d studied sport science at Leeds Beckett University and then was stuyding physiotherapy at Manchester when she started to feel unwell,” recalls Jasmin. “She was found to have suffered a stroke but she was amazing and dusted herself off and got on with it. But then she was diagnosed with MS and she found that much harder. She was in a dark place for a bit but then she discovered para-athletics and she never looked back.”
As a mother of seven children, good home cooking inspired by her own mother was key for Jasmin.
“I learnt to cook from my mother and my grandmother who cooked good Caribbean food and passed all her recipes down to me and then I would add my own twist.”
With her mother and sister Jasmin ran their own restaurant called Paradise in Leeds serving a mix of Caribbean and English food from breakfast sometime through to midnight, although they were supposed to close at 8pm.
“Our customers were a mix of people who just enjoyed what we cooked,” recalls Jasmin. “When the council decided to develop the site where we had the restaurant we decided to close. Mum was getting on a bit and we decided to take a break. We still get people asking for our dishes though.”
When Kadeena comes home Jasmin still cooks her three comfort food classics from her childhood – rice and peas, curried lamb and brown stew chicken.her recipes as part of Asda’s Meals that Made Them campaign.
“These are simple recipes with my own added twist that Kadeena has loved since she was little, and she still cooks them today for her own friends. Kadeena has to follow a very strict diet with her training regime.”
Jasmin has lived in Chapeltown, Leeds, for 18 years and works as a supervisor for a cleaning supply company. She is one of six herself and has seven children, six girls and one boy, with Kadeena being third of the seven children.
“All the children would help out in the restaurant after school or they’d sit in the corner and do their homework. It was a nice life. It was a juggle taking them to all their activities, but we all managed and they all love to cook. I never follow a recipe and I found it hard to write them down.”
An active child, Kadeena started with dancing going to afro-Caribbean, jazz, contemporary and ballet lessons and in school she got into athletics.
“Kadeena was always running as a child – she never walked anywhere, she always ran,” recalls Jasmin.
“She started riding a bike when she was really small.
“She was riding bikes from when she was literally about one. When she used to take off sometimes my heart usually skipped a beat.
“I’m shouting ‘hit the brakes!’ and she’d hit the brakes, look back at me and smile.
“I used to be so terrified of her going over the bars but she had this fearlessness about her when she used to ride off.
“I’m always going to be a mum. When they fall, you clean them up and stuff like that. I don’t think it will ever change, even as old as she is now. But she has always been so resilient. Being diagnosed with MS really hit her but then her coach (Brian Scobie) got her involved in parathletics and she put all her energies into that and I could not be prouder of what she has achieved.
“Brian took her to all the competitions and used tell me that he’d make sure she got home safely. Then when Kadeena could drive she would return the favour – it was her time to give something back to him.”
Kadeena narrowly missed out on a medal in the T38 400 metres final in Tokyo, finishing fourth – in doing so she was unable to add to the golds she won in the cycling.
Having won gold in both cycling and athletics in Rio five years ago, she battled tendinitis in both achilles ahead of the Games.
“I think three more weeks and she would have been a force to be reckoned with. She just needed a little more time on the track,” says Jasmin.
“It was so hard having to watch it on the television – we went to Rio and that was amazing. I was very nervous for her but so, so proud of what she has achieved.
“For me it’s literally like you’re sitting with your heart in your mouth. I know it’s something she loves so I try to relax.”
The family threw a big party for Kadeena when she returned to Leeds from Tokyo – and being crowned MasterChef champion was the icing on the cake.
“Amazing,” the 30-year-old says of her experience.
“When I grew up, my grandma had a takeaway and my mum had a restaurant that were Caribbean. And I’ve been able to take my Caribbean roots on to a TV show, learn from Michelin-starred chefs and learn British classics, and make them look modern and fancy.”
Her winning menu began with a starter of torched salmon marinated in lime juice with caviar, tempura prawn topped with a crab meat mayonnaise, asparagus salad and a Bloody Mary granite. Her main consisted of a French trimmed rack of lamb, Caribbean curried goat pie, roasted carrots, spinach, silver skin onions and a lamb curry sauce, while dessert was Choux au Craquelin, a type of pastry, filled with mascarpone whipped cream, with hazelnut praline crumb and tempered chocolate.
Judge John Torode said: “So many times during this year’s competition I forgot Kadeena had multiple sclerosis and was not only battling for the trophy but had her own personal battle going on. She just never let up, she didn’t stop. For me she is a true inspiration. Her food is special, not just because it is technically brilliant but also because it has heart, it’s got soul and it’s got love.” Fellow judge Greg Wallace: “There is a reason she has a bedroom full of medals – she is a serious competitor.”
To recreate Jasmin’s dishes at home visit https://groceries.asda.com/recipes/collections/curated/meals-that-made-them-recipes for the full recipes and to find out more about the Meals That Made Them campaign.