Shelina, 29, is a former diversity manager for the Business in the Community charity. She’s married and lives in south London.
First food memory
I’m a British-born Mauritian, from Southampton – both parents came over in the 1970s. My dad passed away when I was young and I did all the cooking with my mum and my auntie. We always grew up around Mauritian food – English food was kind of a rarity.
Mauritian food has influences from Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, French, African, Indian – lots of different styles of cooking. It’s very diverse and very frugal; you don’t waste anything. It’s tasty with subtle spices and lots of chillies. My first food memory is probably of mum in the kitchen separating stones from lentils and rice. I was like a mini sous chef.
It was probably with chef Francesco Mazzei at L’Anima – I really wanted to impress my Italian family as well [Shelina’s husband is Italian]. Francesco was incredible. He taught me a lot about classic ingredients, about using no more than five ingredients in a plate of pasta, for example.
Cooking for Michel Roux Jr at Middle Temple was awful. My mousse wasn’t set and it completely melted under the heat. It was one bad thing after another.
How about nerves?
Alcohol was a great help! I spent a lot of time trying to relax, listening to music, trying to chill out, basically. There’s no way to de-stress when you’re on the show, because it’s just constant.
I’d call my mum at the beginning of every show and she’d be, like, “Don’t worry, you’re brilliant” and give me a little pep talk. I just needed a boost before going in.
I want to cook for the rest of my life and I’d love to have my own restaurant but obviously economically it’s a difficult time. In the long term, that’s kind of what I want. I’d love to showcase Mauritian food in the UK.
The judges say…
John Torode: Her strength is definitely to be able to put a big smile on Gregg’s face with her puddings. Her use of a mango is quite extraordinary. She has an individual style, which is very identifiable.
John Torode: She needs to broaden her horizons, get more training and understand the rest of the world and its food. She’s a very good natural cook but she doesn’t have a lot of experience outside of her style.
A word of advice
Gregg Wallace: I think her food could sell and if I was her I’d look for a backer. I think she should phone the Mauritian consulate and try and find a Mauritian businessman to back her.
This was originally published in the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 6 March 2012. Read Tom Rennolds’s interview here and come back tomorrow for our interview with Andrew!
MasterChef: the Final Three airs tonight and tomorrow at 9pm, BBC1.