More than five million people tuned into MasterChef on Friday to watch doctor Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed crowned the cookery competition’s winner.
The 29-year-old from Watford became the 13th amateur cook to be named champion after beating off competition from Steve Kielty and Giovanna Ryan.
Viewer ratings soared for this year’s finale, with an average of 5.4 million people tuning in to the BBC One show – up 500,000 from last year.
A peak of audience of 6.3 million watched as the mother, doctor and cook presented a stunning three-course menu inspired by her Pakistani family.
She stunned hosts Gregg Wallace and John Torode with her Venison shami kebab starter, Kashmiri-style sous vide duck breast and fragrant panna cotta dessert with deconstructed baklava.
John lauded her as a “class act” while Gregg described her dishes as “stunningly good”.
Hours after the pre-recorded series showdown was broadcast, Saliha said she was still on cloud nine about her victory.
She told the BBC’s Saturday morning breakfast show: “It feels like a wonderful, surreal dream.”
Commenting on how she juggled her full-time job as both a medical professional and a mother to two-year-old son Aashir, she admitted: “It was really difficult.
“I was really well-supported by my husband and family, but it was hard.
“It meant lots of late nights, early starts and a lack of sleep.”
A long-time MasterChef fan and food-lover, Saliha told how it was her husband, Usman, who sent off her application for the show.
Now, the Middlesex-born cook said she plans to combine her passions of food and medicine, and even hopes to put her skills in front of the camera.
She said: “Television is a difficult industry to be in, so I am in awe of everybody who does it, but I would love to go on other people’s shows, breakfast shows, cook on television, and I would love, love, love to have my own cookery show.”