In one of the episodes of the latest season of MasterChef Australia,Rishi Desai,one of the participants served a Konkani fishermans platter with three different seafood items. Soon after the show,hundreds of Australians logged in to Facebook to comment on how delectable the platter looked and how they couldnt wait to try out the recipes.
Thousands of miles away in Kolhapur,Rishis mother Uma sat anxiously by the phone,waiting to hear from her son. Then I found out he had made prawn curry and spicy fish recipes I taught him, she said.
Rishi Desai,a native of Kolhapur who studied in Pune,is one of the final 22 contestants on MasterChef Australia 2013,which began airing in Australia on June 2.
Rishis talent and approach to cooking has soon made him a favourite among the shows fans and judges,particularly Gary Mehigan,who praised his ideas openly. Rishi himself credited his skill and knowledge to his mother,Uma,who,however,feels somewhat sad that she cannot see her son live or at least get the news of how Rishi is faring directly from the show. Its not airing in India yet and though I log onto their website everyday,I cant watch the episodes. Ive to wait for those in Australia to watch it and then tell me about it, she said. She doesnt even have the option of discussing the show with her son. He has been shooting with them for four months now and he cant say much because it is confidential, she said. Weve spoken on the phone a few times. He told me he was enjoying the show. He always loved cooking.
Rishis interest in the culinary arts began as early as five,when he would watch his mother cook a full-course meal for 14 members of the Desai family. Culinary interest runs in his blood,says Uma,who owns a spice store in Kolhapur. His grandmother too ran a Kolhapuri fast food and sweetmeat shop. Our family always had a great interest in food. We discuss it,enjoy it and love eating big family meals together, says Uma.
By the time he was seven,Rishi was proficient in making traditional Kolhapuri snacks like bhadang and by 12,he would help the family with everything,from cooking to cutting vegetables.
Despite that,when time came to pick a career,Rishi opted for chemical engineering. Our family has a long line of doctors. He didnt want that. I should have asked him whether he wanted to cook. He never said anything. I regret that, she says.
As fate would have it,when he came to Pune to study at MIT,engineering wasnt the only thing on his mind. That is where he learned most about cooking. He experimented at home because he didnt like eating out, says Uma.
Rishi,now 36,is a chemical patent officer in Australia. After his stint on MasterChef,he hopes to learn more and earn enough recognition to open a restaurant of his own,says his proud mother.