Masterchef Food

Abinas Nayak on winning the coveted Masterchef Season 6 title

Flavours from home: Abinas Nayak used cuisines and techniques he was familiar with to win the coveted Masterchef Season 6 title

When 28-year-old Abinas Nayak decided to take part in Masterchef India Season 6, all he wished for was to make it to the top 15. An analyst from Odisha, Abinas lives and works in Hyderabad, and had done his preparation well. He wanted to make a statement — not for himself or his cooking skills, but for Odisha’s cuisine which is rarely spoken of. Abinas’s love to create regional food and present it with an Instagram-worthy twist, has drawn a lot of followers. They know what to expect of him — so much so that when he repeatedly used his water straw ‘morha’ to present his dishes, they wanted more.

Abinas Nayak on winning the coveted Masterchef Season 6 title

Abinas went on to use his expertise to create dishes not commonly found on restaurant menus. “I decided to make the Chicken Besara, a dish made with an Oriya signature mustard paste base. I used black and white mustard seeds to make a paste along with cumin, chilli, and garlic. I presented it with rice and the judges polished it off. After which I was simply told, ‘You are selected.’ No questions asked, no interview. I was dumbfounded. Seeing other participants go through 30-minute interviews, I was quite nervous,”says Abinas, speaking over phone from Mumbai, where he is with his family to celebrate his win.

Abinas is all for experimentation: he is not just about the Odia pakhla bhaat and ghugni; nor is he one to constantly debate on the GI tag for rasagulla. He has attempted a chocolate variant of the traditional rasagulla; has made chicken drumsticks and kebabs on betel leaves, among many others. A self-taught food stylist and techie, Abinas was also the recipient of the Lokicooks Fellowship 2019.

‘All worthwhile’

Going back to his days at the Masterchef kitchen, Abinas recollects it to be “humongous and gruelling”. He admits that he found the experience overwhelming at times. “But it was all worthwhile once the task was completed. We would spend over 10 hours in the kitchen preparing, brainstorming, discussing, and learning at the same time.” The most daunting task on the show was the Republic Day episode. “We were to make 15 thalis with 100 dishes from different regions of India,” he recollects.

Abinas credits his interest in cooking to his grandmother Jashoda with whom he spent most of his middle school years in Aska near Behrampur. He is now busy attending events at catering and hotel management institutions to discuss food. He doesn’t plan to start a restaurant yet, but is sure to do so in the future. “For now, I plan to document lesser-known cuisines of India,” he adds.

Abinas runs us through his winning dish: “My contender was strong and highly talented. So, for the grand finale, I decided to use all what I learned from the chefs I met, and the judges. For the final cook-off, I went all regional with flavours. I made prawn ceviche with a tempering of the Oriya pago and ambula. I also made vermicelli-coated prawn fry. This was a starter. For the main course, I picked a lost Odia recipe, the Oda mangsho (ginger lamb). I presented desi flavoured lamb shanks in an international style with mulberry, ginger, lemon honey vinaigrette, and balsamic ginger reduction. Ginger was the show-stopper flavour.”

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:13:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/abinas-nayak-masterchef-season-6/article30990075.ece

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