A short order full of flavour

high standards: Chef Kunal Kapur says that this year, Masterchef India will revolve around cooking being a serious pursuit. — photo: special arrangement

high standards: Chef Kunal Kapur says that this year, Masterchef India will revolve around cooking being a serious pursuit. — photo: special arrangement  


MasterChef India will see the return of chef Kunal Kapur with a bigger and food-focused fifth season this October

A familiar face was missing from the last season of MasterChef India. But the affable and candid Chef Kunal Kapur is back to judge the fifth innings of the popular cooking show. “I was away in the US last year shooting the second season of my show, Foodie Comes To America (aired in the US), but I’m back for MasterChef India Season 5,” says an excited Kapur. “The channel (Star Plus) was very eager to have me back on board, because I have been a part of the show from the beginning, and they see that I add a certain value.”

The Delhi-born celebrity chef and restaurateur will join Michelin chef Vikas Khanna and Zoravar Kalra (owner of establishments such as Masala Library and Farzi Café) in what promises to be a cracker of a new season.

Essentially, Kapur and other judges have been looking for contestants who can do more than cook. “Innovation is the key to becoming a master chef,” he explains. “I feel that when we push the contestants into a corner and grill them, that’s when they burst out of their shells and really think outside the box.” The ability to stay cool and calm under pressure is another important quality. “We are looking for people who focus on flavour, and also have a bit of a story to tell around the food that they are cooking,” he continues.

First premièring in Britain, the MasterChef franchise has been wildly popular, spawning off country-specific versions, all of which seem to have a different style of judging. Take for example the tough love style that is Gordon Ramsay’s specialty on MasterChef US, or the mentoring style adopted by the three judges on MasterChef Australia. “I think the judging style is inherent with the character and the kind of person the judge is,” elaborates Kapur. “The show does not ask us to be nice or rude. It’s just our personality that comes out naturally.” The chef confesses to being a hard taskmaster, but is also very supportive at the same time. “I might set high standards but I also understand the kind of pressure the contestants are under, so I will be the one to make suggestions and give them clues on how to move forward,” he says.

In the upcoming season, slated to go on air in a week, viewers will witness MasterChef India make a break from its soap opera-esque look and get more serious about food. This year’s theme revolves around cooking being a serious pursuit and #notjustahobby. “We are looking for contestants who love food, who are passionate about food; they may be home cooks, but they are looking to pursue their passion and do something in food beyond the show,” says Kapur. “We have no space for hobby cooks and people with sad stories this season.”

The auditions have been measuring up to these expectations. Kapur puts it down to the evolution of tastes and eating patterns. “We are getting people who are well travelled and [have been broadly exposed to] food,” he says. “At the same time, they have an understanding of regional Indian ingredients.” With a new focus and less drama, Kapur promises that the show will put the spotlight on the food, rather than the celebrity judges or the contestants. In fact, Kapur has an ambitious goal. “This season, we want to give MasterChef Australia a run for their money,” he laughs.

But it’s not just the show that’s keeping Kapur busy. “Along with shooting for MasterChef India, I am also putting together my next two books,” he reveals. “The first one, Men Can’t Cook, will be funny and will (hopefully) inspire men to come into the kitchen more often.” The other one, Pickles of India, has been inspired by his deep love for achaar and will feature several unheard of Indian variants.

The celebrity chef also has more travel shows lined up for next year, and he’s putting together a concept for a new restaurant in Delhi. “Let’s see how that works out,” he says. “For now I’m concentrating on MasterChef India.”

With no drama and more food, the fifth season welcomes Kapur back along with hopefully more viewers tuning in.

Prachi Joshi is a Mumbai-based travel and food writer.

MasterChef India Season 5 will go on air from October 1, every Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. on Star Plus.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 8:21:06 AM |

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