Angela Schlegel, 44, Churchlands, WA
There's nothing worse than feeling incompetent - like you don't have the brains to do things most people find simple. As a child, feeling more stupid than your classmates is even more difficult and it's easy for that low self-esteem to follow you into adulthood. It did for me.
I still shudder to think of my days in primary school. I struggled to understand some subjects, especially maths. Every time the teacher asked a question, it was mortifying. I'd sink lower in my seat as the other students eagerly raised their hand to answer. It wasn't like I didn't try. I listened to what the teacher said, and after school I spent hours on my homework. But it was no use. Nothing made sense and I just couldn't concentrate.
Even when my mum, Jenny, arranged a tutor, it wouldn't help overnight. Sadly, my lack of success in the classroom also translated to the sporting field. I was no good at that either. I felt like a huge failure.Looking back, I think that I could have had some kind of development problem, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But as it was almost unheard of back then, I was never diagnosed. Instead, I'd come home from school believing I was dumb. It left my self-esteem in tatters.
When the time came for me to go to secondary school, Mum stepped in and encouraged me to try something creative, like cooking. I'd already managed to create a cake or two but she showed me how to do much more. Eventually, I started making dinner each night. Mastering a lamb roast or pasta bake left me feeling elated. It was fantastic to watch my family relish every mouthful. Finally, I was actually good at something.
Knowing that cooking was all I could do, I threw myself into it. In year eight, in home economics classes, my teacher took me under her wing. I may have been the lowest in other subjects, but in that one I came out on top. I found something I'd been missing my entire life. Cooking had given me confidence.
At 18, I started a hospitality course. That's where I met Justine, 16. Like me, she had a passion for cooking and I knew that I'd met a friend for life. Three years later, when I moved to Japan to work, Justine and I still stayed in contact. Then at 25, another very special person came into my life. His name was Beat and he was from Switzerland. Although he was 11 years older than me, we fell in love. Our relationship was wonderful. I'd make him delicious meals and he'd sing my praises while he cleaned the dishes. We were soul mates.
Not long after, Beat moved back to Perth with me and we got married. I'd never before imagined I could be so happy. But deep down, something was missing. Discovering I could cook had changed my life and I wanted to be able to give that back to someone else. Beat and I didn't want children ourselves, but that didn't mean I couldn't do my bit to help other kids develop their own potential. I decided to become a home economics teacher. To do that, though, I had to go to university. That's when all my old insecurities resurfaced. I never dreamt I'd get a degree. At 35, could I really do it?
Amazingly, I excelled in my education course and when I graduated four years later, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Mum still has a picture of me from that day stuck on the fridge. She says she'd never seen me so happy. Last year, I was watching My Kitchen Rules when I had an idea that Justine and I should apply. Although she was working as a truck driver in a mine at the time, I knew her culinary skills were still intact. Thankfully, she agreed.
The experience has been a blast. Not only have we delivered some delicious meals, we've also had to dish out a lot of constructive criticism and take our own fair share too. I wouldn't hesitate to do it all again, and hopefully one day I can encourage others to make the most of their potential by doing cooking demonstrations. Until I discovered cooking, I thought I couldn't do anything. But now I'm confident enough to handle the heat and plate up with passion!