In Conversation with: MasterChef Winner Shelina Permalloo
Hampshire’s own Shelina Permalloo shot to fame after winning BBC’s MasterChef in 2012.
Since winning the title, Shelina has made various televised appearances, written two popular cookbooks and has successfully launched her own restaurant, Lakaz Maman, serving delicious Mauritian Food in Bedford Place, Southampton.
I caught up with Shelina before her virtual Cookalong at The Myers Touch in Winchester on the 26th January to discuss life before Masterchef, the inspiration behind her cooking and why virtual cookalong’s are making up for the experiences we’re all missing right now.
What was life like before Masterchef?
I was a diversity manager working for 10 years on increasing diversity and equality in the workplace.
……….I’d grown up in Southampton but at 18 I decided to up sticks and head to London. I worked in London for 10 years, jumping on the tube every day and doing the 9-5 thing… until I entered Masterchef!
What was life like after Masterchef?
Well, the first thing I really noticed was the timings! When you work for yourself, as I was then doing, there are no ‘working hours’ or even set deadlines. But catering is a lot of work, so there were a lot of late nights that I actually relished!
………My world has totally changed. There’s no set routine and the beauty is you never really know what to expect. I love that the catering industry is totally client-lead.
……..The hospitality industry is interesting. It’s always changing… but that’s because people are always changing.
……..Winning Masterchef is like a media whirlwind! I was suddenly on Lorraine and This morning and Sunday Brunch!
Where do you get your inspiration for your cooking?
My mother is my biggest inspiration. She came to England from Mauritius in the early ’70s.
………They had a typical migrant story in that they came over here and worked incredibly hard. No matter how hard she was working, my mother always made us the most delicious meals with fresh ingredients and tonnes of flavour. She worked nights, days, every hour under the sun and yet she never bought a microwave meal or a takeaway.
………As a child I knew I wanted to be able to do what she did – cook with fresh ingredients, from scratch, in the traditional Mauritian way.
………Sifting through chickpeas and lentils was a childhood pastime, with my mother.
………The name of my restaurant, Lakaz Maman means ‘mother’s house’ in Creole, so she’s forever inspiring me and others.
How else does Lakaz Maman echo that inspiration?
Mauritian food is designed to be enjoyed with family and friends. It’s hearty and wholesome and bright, it’s meant to be dropped down your t-shirt and requires a bit of mess! That’s the vibe I’m instilling at Lakaz Maman.
……….It’s familial and fun. I could’ve gone down the route of having some big, grand fine dining experience… but I didn’t. I went back to the beginning, to Southampton and to a smaller unit where I could truly embody what cooking and sharing food means to me. It’s all about sharing the food – that’s part of what makes it gloriously and vibrantly Mauritian.
……….“Great food happens in the homes of the people you love.”
……….That’s what I’m mimicking at Lakaz Maman. I think the experience of the last year or so has made us realise how precious ‘tearing and sharing’ was for us, how special it is to share food!
Tell us about the Cookalong, what was the driving force behind it?
The experience we’re missing! The sharing of experiences over great food!
……….I’m desperately missing my customers and we’re all desperately missing people. I’ve done corporate cookalongs, as well as private ones.
………What’s so special about this particular cookalong with The Myers Touch is that it’s set in such a beautiful, aspirational kitchen. It’s a ‘feel as if you’re there’ kind of event.
……….Not only do the guests see a gorgeous kitchen environment, but they can cookalong with a lively tropical menu that’s very uplifting and colourful in these slightly dark and gloomy times.
………We’ll be cooking a traditional chicken and coconut curry with cumin rice, pan-seared pineapple and rose and pistachio and chantilly cream. Vegan recipe sheets are also available and the recipe is also entirely gluten-free. Mauritian food is renowned for its vegan options, as is Lakaz Maman.
Shelina Permaloo invites you to join her for a ‘cook along’ style class via Zoom and learn how to cook a Mauritian inspired curry & dessert.
In collaboration with The Myers Touch, Winchester, Shelina is hosting a cook-along curry class in their luxury kitchen showroom where she will teach guests how to cook this beautiful two-course Mauritian menu:-
An Island Style Mauritian Chicken Coconut Curry and Yellow Rice and Spiced A light and aromatic curry, full of spice and fragrant herbs. Once you master the base of this recipe, it can be adapted to make a variety of different recipes using the same method
Pineapple with Cardamom Cream Pan-seared pineapple glazed in a beautifully spiced butter served with a simple Chantilly and a hint of warming spice.
All guests will be sent a PDF of the recipes in advance and will need to buy all their ingredients and be ready to cook with their equipment ready. All menus can be adapted to different dietary requirements so alternative ingredients can be suggested.
Opportunity to have a Q&A with Shelina after the masterclass!
Get your ticket here
For more inspirational stories from Hampshire women, keep up to date with our Girbloss column.
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