He may not have won the show but he surely won many hearts in the latest season of Junior MasterChef Australia. Dev Mishra, the 13-year-old home cook who made his first meal when he was just eight, earned rave reviews from the judges for his first-ever meal in the show, with chef Jock Zonfrillo saying, “I feel as if I’m eating at your table at home with your parents and your brothers.”
In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, the Victoria-based chef talks about his MasterChef experience, his love for cooking, and the huge risk of preparing five dishes in just 75 minutes.
You impressed the judges with your first-ever dish – Lamb Mughlai Curry with Saffron rice, Raita, Chutney, and Smoked Chicken Kebab! Had you expected such a start to your MasterChef journey?
Yeah, I definitely did not expect that at all. I was so proud hearing what the judges had to say, and I was so happy with what I had achieved. I was struggling in between since there were a lot of elements, but I was so happy when the judges really enjoyed my food. They did get a little bit emotional too, so I was really proud, and my family was proud. I was just so happy.
But you took a huge risk by attempting to cook five things in 75 minutes!
Yes, I did know that it was a risk at that time, but that dish really represents me. The challenge was to make a signature dish, and I really wanted to impress the judges on the first day. So I wanted to make something that is really delicious, packed with flavour and represents me, my family, and my heritage.
When did you start cooking and realise this is your calling?
I started cooking from a very young age, mostly with my mum. She would encourage me to get into the kitchen, give small tasks like roll out the dough, chop a few vegetables, and that is when it really started. I started cooking on my own from there and the first meal that I had made all by myself, was in grade 4. So, I was eight years old and I made breakfast on Mothers’ Day — pancakes and scrambled eggs on toast — and my passion has been growing ever since.
What was the main idea behind participating in Junior MasterChef Australia?
Junior MasterChef Australia hasn’t been on for like a very, very long time. So when I first saw the ad, I got really, really excited, and so did my family. I instantly thought that it was the perfect opportunity to give it a go, and my parents were super supportive with it, my whole family was. So, yeah, I guess, I just wanted to show the world what I could do.
What do you like cooking the most and what makes you struggle?
I really like cooking dishes from every cuisine and experimenting. I also like to try every cuisine, and desserts; sometimes, I struggle with it, sometimes it does not go as planned, but I think that is what cooking is about — learning. And there is always more to learn about cooking, there is so much to know. I wanted to show on Junior Masterchef Australia, too, that I can be versatile, so I did make a couple of desserts, and a lot of savouries from a variety of cuisines. That’s what I like to cook, different things from different cuisines.
Any struggles that you faced while cooking?
Yes, mainly those technical desserts. For example, the chocolate bowl — that’s mostly self-taught. I took inspiration from other places and other contestants in Masterchef and I tried to make my own desserts like that. It doesn’t always go as planned but when it does, I do get really, really happy.
Your cooking impressed not only the judges but also your co-contestants. But whose cooking do you enjoy the most and what do you love indulging in?
The food I like to eat the most is definitely my mom’s food. She is, without a doubt, the best cook I know. She prepares such amazing stuff and most of what I know is from her. She is such an inspiration and it’s a privilege every time I get to eat her food.
Any particular dish you love that your mom makes?
She makes some really good ‘litti’ and mutton. It’s a dish from Patna and it is so delicious that I could eat it every day.
What was your most memorable moment on the show?
The first tasting, like the first dish I made, because what the judges had to say about it made me so proud of what I had accomplished. That is something I will never forget; it just made me so happy.
One dish you really wanted to prepare but did not get the opportunity to?
I actually have this really delicious chilli crab recipe that I wanted to show the judges. That is one of my favourite things to make and I didn’t get the opportunity to, but if I did, I would definitely do so in the MasterChef kitchen. It is really, really good.
What’s next in line for you?
I am still going to keep cooking and although I didn’t win it, I still learnt so much in MasterChef — about cooking and even general skills. I want to keep cooking and am also working on my YouTube channel. I am going to post recipes so other people can try them as well. The main message I want to send is that everybody can cook. I am going to keep going on with my cooking journey.
Junior MasterChef Australia is available on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.