Shelina Permalloo wins MasterChef 2012 final

Sunny Mauritian chef triumphs in the culinary contest for a ratings-winning cook-off

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Shelina Permalloo has won the MasterChef final, in a gripping competition climax that pulled in 5.6 million viewers, climbing to 6.21 million at 9:45pm when the winners were announced.

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The judges said the 29-year-old Tooting-based chef brought “sunshine to a plate” with a winning menu of octopus starter, mutton curry, and a dessert of mango cannelloni filled with lime curd.

As only the second woman to take the title in eight years, a delighted Permalloo said: “I am completely and utterly overwhelmed. I never thought it would be me that would win. The guys were so amazing and I just never thought it could happen to me.”

The 29-year-old who grew up in Southampton paid tribute to her Mauritian mother, who showed her how to cook in the traditional style of her country: “My mum is a brilliant cook. I learnt everything from her. I’m basically her sous chef. She taught me to cook by intuition: never by using scales, always by sight and taste. So I developed a strong palate from a young age.

“I only ate Mauritian food growing up as it gave our family that affinity of being close to the island. Mauritian food is very frugal, which is great in these economic climates but at the same time full of flavour, heady with aromatics, nutritional and damn tasty.”

The talented young chef beat finalists Andrew Kojima and Tom Rennolds, winning over the judges with her upbeat personality as well as her cooking, and shining in challenges that included cooking for royalty in Thailand, serving a three-course meal for Michelin-starred chefs and preparing dishes for the judges themselves.

John Torode said: “What Shelina has done throughout this competition is outstanding. She is a very special cook with an exceptional talent, who always wears a smile and cooks with care to assault the senses and bring sunshine to a plate.”

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Although the series has not quite managed to achieve last year’s audiences, when the final grabbed the attention of 5.92 million viewers, it beat ITV1’s new romantic drama, Love Life, which was no match for the cookery final, averaging 3.92 million viewers, and losing more than a million viewers while on air.