Food

When 'Masterchef USA' contestants did a cookoff in Gummidipoondi

Subha Ramiah at work

Subha Ramiah at work   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

'Masterchef' stars Subha Ramiah and Noah Sims combine Louisiana-style Cajun recipes with fresh, local ingredients at a community cookout for almost 100 families

What are two Masterchef contestants doing at a small school, tucked away in the meandering bylanes of Gummidipoondi?

Subha Ramiah, is no stranger to these woods. Born in Chennai, the alumnus of Anna University, who now calls New York home, is not letting his celebrity get in the way of a community cook-out at the Cascade Montessori rural resource center, run by the Relief Foundation. “I went to college with Vidya Shankar who started the Relief Foundation to give back to the local community through holistic education.” he says.

The foundation, set up in 1998, brings a child-centric education to primary students in deserving communities. It also trains parents, treating them as important stakeholders in the children’s education.

“This cause is close to my heart, and on every trip I like to come down and help in any way I can,” he says.

On this trip, he has brought along Noah Sims, his Masterchef (USA, Season 10) co-conspirator.

He adds, “I also ran into Chef Anand who works with Gossip Fusion Bistro in Kanathur. Along with staff at Gossip, Sims and I will present a labour of love for the students of Cascade, and their parents.”

The menu is simple, yet wholesome, with some Indian-Cajun flair-vegetarian gumbo, fresh salad, and rice.

Noah Sims with children from the local community

Noah Sims with children from the local community  

The Gossip kitchen staff procured all the produce, prepped some of it, and two chefs accompanied Subha and Sims to the lush school compound.

The Indian experience

Noah Sims, at 6 foot 7 inches towers over the kitchen staff, in the compound. He is furiously chopping over 90 apples, that will go into a rainbow salad of local fruit and vegetables, dressed delicately with tamarind and lemons found at the school. Dressed in a tie and dye vest and overalls, Sims alternates between checking on the salad, and joking around with the sous chefs.

“It’s been a dream to visit India since I did a project on this country in Grade I. I’ve tried over 64 dishes in just six days, and boy, have I fallen in love with the culture and cuisine! I can eat tamarind straight out of the pod now, and have danced at a sangeet in front of 800 people over the weekend. It’s awesome!” exclaims the Georgian resident who made quite an impression on Gordon Ramsay and his crew, with his mean grilling skills.

“It’s funny. I’m known for my steaks, but come November, I turned vegan. Cutting out animal fat completely has made all the difference. I even eat my two pound salads with chopsticks to really slow down my meal time,” he says.

The dish cooked in Louisiana style

The dish cooked in Louisiana style  

Healthy, local food is the USP with both Subha and Sims. “I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2013 and was immediately put on a cocktail of medicines. But I wanted to control my sugar naturally. I did a lot of research and it all came down to portion control and glucose monitoring. I ensure that one-third of my plate is always filled with fruit and veggies,” says Subha, while emptying a cup of cajun spice and Kashmiri mirch (chilli) into the vat of simmering gumbo.

As the scent wafts over the compound, the mirch makes a good first impression, while the other spices play second fiddle to the medley of ladies finger, peppers and tomatoes .

The Indian engineer-turned-chef explains, “The holy trinity for me with cooking Louisiana style, is the celery, green onion and parsley combination, a nice spice mix and of course the roux (a creamy mixture of fat and flour, used as a base for gravies/bakes). Studying at Louisiana State University, I had actually cooked for international student delegations, but my first brush with cooking was at home, making savoury snacks and coffee when visitors came over. ”

Subha quickly samples the gumbo that Sims is stirring, adding honey for balance. “The way I cook hasn’t changed after the competition, but I have learned the importance of plating, respecting unfamiliar ingredients and the nuances of baking,” says Subha.

Sims feels differently: “I’ve been cooking since I was 20, and the competition taught me a lot about my limits. The spectacle of it all, is amplified by the drama that they induce. So I had to step back and let my cooking do the talking!” Dhruva, a 10-year old student comes to split a gulkand sandwich with Sims, which he delightfully inhales.

“It’s so fortuitous that we met Subha and Sims,” says Ramya Venkatraman, who runs Gossip Fusion Bistro, and a food court at Mahindra World City with her husband Hari Ganesan.

“We like to pay it forward by cooking for children at different homes and schools every month. Since Subha was doing a cookout here, Gossip sourced the supplies, arranged for logistics and made a pumpkin-carrot-beetroot layered halwa, to top off this very special meal.”

Their restaurant in Kanathur is hosting a five-course meal, curated by the Master Chefs on February 6, where Southern comfort food crosses paths with Cajun chutzpah.

Sims explains, “I am doing bunless burgers, with some onion chutney, Subha will do gumbo, jambalaya, Cajun fish and together, we will create some nice old-fashioned desserts with bourbon thrown in for good measure. It’s a good mix of our styles and stories.”

To meet the Masterchefs or sample their food, call Gossip Fusion Bistro & Dessert Bar at 9940244569.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 7:57:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/when-masterchef-usa-contestants-did-a-cookoff-in-gummidipoondi/article30744183.ece

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