The spice route

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CHAT Rishi Desai talks about reaching the top five in Master Chef Australia 2013, and his fondness for Punjabi flavours

All smiles at the chopping blockRishi Desai
All smiles at the chopping blockRishi Desai

Our country has been known to produce great sportsmen who, by virtue of their performance, have done us proud on various occasions. But this time it’s not about sports but a cooking competition. And the man who fought till the end is Kolhapur boy Rishi Desai.

Fit and passionate, Rishi is the first Indian contestant to make it to the coveted top five in the Master Chef Australia 2013 competition. As the competition is now over, Rishi has returned to his country. In Delhi for a short visit to explore its food culture, Rishi says he loves Punjabi flavours. Opting to dine at Gulati’s for its famous butter chicken, Rishi says, “I feel Indian flavours are very distinct and they made my job easier as I could experiment with them during the show and judges liked them.”

Tracing the roots of his passion, he says, “My mother tells me I was five when I first entered kitchen and cooked a two minute maggi noodle for myself”. An academic minded person, Rishi moved abroad for his masters after finishing his engineering from Pune. He got a full time job with Australian Public Services and is still working with them. Cooking at this time was nothing more than a hobby, albeit a passionate one. After seeing the popularity of the show, he expressed his desire to participate in the competition to his colleagues and got a five month leave to fulfil his dream. He worked hard and never looked back.

During the visit last month to Delhi, Gary Mehigan, one of the judges of the show, said, “I am very impressed by Rishi during the show. He is an exceptional and creative guy who has presented modern Indian cuisine in a beautiful way.”

Rishi loves to experiment with spices which his mother sends from her local spice shop in Kolhapur. One delicacy he is fond of cooking is his signature slow cooked Kolhapuri goat with cauliflower puree and pappadum. Even his modaks with soy caramel were a hit amongst the three judges of the show. Rishi wants to take the modern Indian cuisine to a new level and is also working on a book which will be released by early next year.


I feel Indian flavours are very distinct and they made my job easier




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