Chef Shelina Permalloo on Sydney, childhood caravan holidays, and her life in travel

'I burst into tears when I saw the Blue Mountains'

Chef Shelina Permalloo
Chef Shelina Permalloo

Going to Mauritius for the first time was very surreal.

My family are Mauritian and I first went aged 12. I felt very culturally aligned to it but had no real idea of what to expect. It was greener than I imagined and I remember seeing beautiful women in colourful saris walking along the roadside with baskets on their heads. Sadly, I didn't look quite so glamorous. The humidity made my hair go huge – I looked like a member of the Supremes.

Childhood caravan holidays instilled a great love of the British countryside.

The whole family, including my uncle and aunt, who'd always cook huge quantities of food and pack it into industrial-style pots, would squeeze into a caravan and set off to explore. We went to places like Norfolk and Cheddar Gorge.

Thai cuisine had a huge impact on me.

I first visited Thailand during MasterChef. We went to Chiang Mai in the north to do a series of challenges, including cooking on an opium estate and preparing a banquet for royalty. Thai cuisine blends hot and salty, sweet and sour like no other.

Moving mountains: the Three Sisters

The Blue Mountains made me cry.

We drove from Sydney and I burst into tears the moment I looked out at those peaks, shrouded in mist and scented by thousands of eucalyptus trees. I could see dozing koalas in the branches. The most famous spot is the Three Sisters, a trio of craggy sandstone formations that Aborigines believe are siblings turned to stone. It remains one of the most moving experiences of my life.

I enjoy flying.

It's the perfect time to switch off, but I didn't enjoy the flight from Mauritius to Rodrigues, a sleepy island in the Indian Ocean. We travelled on a tiny twin-propeller plane and I spent the whole time fearing for my life. The runway was so short I can barely believe we landed on it.

I expected great Cypriot food in Ayia Napa but didn't get any.

I went when I was 21 and it turned out to be the worst food experience of my life. Everything was deep-fried, the staple was chicken kiev and there was nothing fresh or green for miles.

Barcelona brings out my creative side.

I love the architecture and all the colours. I've been so many times, most recently with my mum and sister for my 30th birthday. We rented an apartment and spent four days wandering around and stuffing ourselves with tapas.

Eating cow brains wasn't very pleasant.

I tried it in Paris and it looked like grey scrambled eggs. That's the most bizarre food I've ever tried but I'll give most things a go. Kangaroo was quite nice and crocodile was like a cross between chicken and fish. Like monkfish with a twist.

My best souvenir? Meat cleavers.

I bought some for myself and my brother from a market in Mauritius for 40p, but I was really worried that customs would stop me when I got back to London.

I love the Sofitel hotel in Essaouira.

Not just because it's beautiful and located right on the waterfront, but because there's a man whose job it is to walk around spraying the scent of orange blossom everywhere. Essaouira is a Moroccan fishing village so the whiff of sardines can be pretty potent and orange blossom is my favourite smell in the whole world.

My night in Amsterdam sends shivers down my spine.

We arrived without anywhere to stay but met a chap who harangued us into taking a room. It looked like the kind of place where somebody had died. There was a sink in the corner and when I brushed my teeth everything I spat out went through the plughole and straight on to the floor. We left the next morning.

Chef Shelina Permalloo is appearing at Destinations: The Holiday and Travel Show which is at Olympia London from 4-7 February (destinationsshow.com)

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in