A MUM-OF-TWO will bid to prove her mothering mettle on prime time television - following a chance encounter in a Chigwell car park.
Tracy Joel, of Buckhurst Hill, is one of eight women plucked from across the country to take part in Jewish Mum of the Year, a four-part reality series starting on Channel 4 on Tuesday (October 9).
The 42-year-old will compete against seven finalists, tackling a string of challenges in the hope of landing the post of agony aunt for the Jewish News.
She applied for the show after bumping into a researcher outside the David Lloyd gym in Chigwell in April.
"I was just there in the car park because I'd bought my friend a beauty voucher - I wasn't even going to the gym," said Ms Joel, who previously lived in Loughton.
"I saw this researcher and went and said 'what are you doing?'. And she said 'do you want to put anyone forward for Jewish Mum of the Year?'
"So I said 'yes, me'. I've got a bucket list, so everything's got to be ticked off."
Ms Joel's daughters Charlotte, 15, and Olivia, 11, were initially shocked by their mum's bid for stardom - but have come round to the idea since filming finished in July.
"They said 'oh mum, what have you done now?' But they're very excited about watching it," she said.
"I had the best time on the whole thing. It's not every day that you get to go on TV."
The divorced lettings manager said she had worried the show might stereotype Jewish mothers - but, after being given a sneak preview of the first episode, now believes the opposite is true.
"They want to show different types of people, that we are not the stereotypical lunatic mums," she said.
"I'm not that religious. I'm divorced, but I did get married in a synagogue. I don't keep a kosher home.
"I'm very laid back. Things get done. They may not get done when you want them too, but they get done.
"That's the side of me that's shown on TV."
She said she hoped Epping Forest's Jewish community would tune in and lend her their backing.
"To be honest, I think they'll be rooting for me," she added.
The first show will see the finalists throw a Bar Mitzvah for a 13-year-old boy, with Ms Joel called on to cook a cake for his 200 guests.
"We got the opportunity to pick something to do. One of the things I didn't want to do was bake a cake," she said.
"So I used a cake mix. At the end of the day, I just wanted there to be a cake."
While baking, Ms Joel received a surprise guest in the shape of three-Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal.
"He wasn't too impressed," she said.
Two mums will be eliminated at the end of each episode. If Ms Joel makes it through, future challenges will include matchmaking, preparing a five-course Friday night dinner and organising a pensioners' coach trip to Southend.
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