A junior doctor, who was born in Sutton, has been crowned MasterChef champion.
Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed, 29, faced off competition from 63 other determined contestants, through seven gruelling weeks of culinary challenges and an exhilarating final cook-off.
On her win, Saliha said: “I feel amazing right now, I can’t actually believe that this is true. I’m so happy that my cheekbones are hurting and I’m probably going to have a paracetamol for smile-induced fatigue! I’m a scientist, I’m not an artist, and this is pure creativity. To be the MasterChef champion is fantastic and wonderful. Adjectives are not sufficient. This is most definitely the coolest thing that I’ve ever done in my life!”
The emotional judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace congratulated Saliha her on her win.
John Torode said: “Saliha is a class act. She’s walked in here and taken her food culture apart and put it back together in a modern and very exciting way. She always does something a little bit extra - something which always surprises us.”
On her winning menu, he said: “Those dishes sparkled. They were clean, crisp, refined and beautiful.”
Gregg Wallace said: “It’s East meets West and it is stunningly good.”
He called Saliha "an incredible cook and an incredible person."
"Saliha’s flavours were always outstanding, but when she translated those flavours into modern presentation there was no stopping her. Her food is simply stunning - beautiful art on a plate.”
Saliha beat Steve Kielty, 40, and Giovanna Ryan, 29, to claim the Masterchef title.
The final task was to prepare a three-course meal for judges and Saliha’s winning menu included started with a venison shami kebab with cashew and coriander green chutney, chana daal and a kachumbar saladas well as a Saffron rosewater and cardamom pannacotta, served with a deconstructed baklava.
Saliha started cooking at a young age and was influenced by her family.
"I’m from a big Pakistani family and we use food as a way of bringing everyone together, She said.
" I had very passionate grandmothers who cooked traditional Pakistani food and my mum is also an excellent cook. We love to feed people – it runs in our genes’’.
“I discovered my love for cooking in food technology lessons in year 7 at school. Then when I was 15, my Food Tech teacher entered me into the School Chef of the Year competition and I won it.”
On her future plans, Saliha said: “My dream is to continue working as a doctor – and also to combine it with my other passion – food. I’m specialising in Gastroenterology and to be able to help patients through medicine and my food knowledge would be incredible. I’d love to write cookbooks in my own style, as well as healthy eating cookbooks. I’d hope to be able to help drive the country towards healthier meals - and work on national campaigns to tackle obesity, particularly in children.”