Masterchef USA’s Indian-American contestant Sheetal Bhagat springs a surprise. The show mostly helped her overcome a broken relationship, and today, she would rather concentrate on her music career
With the Masterchef franchise firmly in place in India, we decided to chat with one of the first Indian connections of the show: Masterchef USA’s Indian-American contestant Sheetal Bhagat, who went on to become a semi-finalist.
We start with the obvious question — how did Masterchef change her life? Says Sheetal, “Masterchef did change my life, but not in the obvious way you’d think. I was really struggling with a personal situation. I was brooding and was isolated from everyone I knew, my family and friends. I was struggling to maintain a relationship that I knew wasn’t right for me. I was involved with the wrong person, and moreover, the wrong family. Once that relationship ended, I found it difficult, because of the way it had ended, to find closure and move on with my life. I felt I had no choice but to turn the ‘camera’ on myself, and take a good, hard look at my life. Having to rely solely on myself to get through a hard time was not something I was accustomed to doing. The Masterchef opportunity gave me the ‘tools’ needed to make some much-needed changes. It kept me busy and fulfilled at a time when I needed that the most.”
Sheetal continues, “While being on Masterchef was a gift that has turned me around in the best way possible, I can’t say that my life has changed drastically. Sure, I’ve conducted some nice catering assignments that have made me happy. But I would say success has also come from the changes I’ve made in my personal life.”
Sheetal met her husband Jonathan Heinert online. She says, “I chose to remove myself from the dating scene after I returned from shooting Masterchef in 2009-2010. I focused solely on my career. After a while, I met my now husband, who is an architect with Wheeler Kearns in Chicago. I am very blessed to have met him, though I will not let him watch episodes of the show. It’s a part of my past, and I didn’t want him learning about me as a person through a television show. One can never truly know who those people are.”
Sheetal is also a musician of some acclaim. While she takes up the occasional catering assignment, she also has a parallel, thriving music career.
She is a regular opening singer for the American National Anthem at the Wrigley Stadium in Chicago, the most recent being for a Cubs game. Says the musician, “I spend my time working in Chicago as a recording artist and stage performer. I sing with several different groups, including pop, jazz and classical groups. I released an album back in 2004 called Love of Ages. It’s time to start working on a new album, and I’m hoping to get connected with the right producer to collaborate on this!”
About her Indian connection she adds, “I was recently in India. In December last year, we went on a whirlwind tour to Kerala, Mumbai, Agra, Delhi, Vadodara and Ahmedabad. Regarding Indian music, I’m actually not so much into the Bollywood scene. But I’d love to work as a singer in Bollywood, given the right opportunity. I feel western music production in India is something I can contribute to. I’d love to work with a producer on a new album, but the sound would not be traditional Bollywood.”
And how about ‘catering’ to her roots in India? Sheetal concludes with a smile, “Though I do love food, and took a couple of cooking lessons while in India with chefs there, my heart is really in music. I spend my time and energy furthering my music career, and enjoy catering and teaching cooking classes when I am offered the time to do so.”