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‘Nothing beats mum’s cooking; it’s magic’: MasterChef Australia winner Justin Narayan

"I think my food is always changing just like I am -- hopefully for the better. My aim is to always pay respect to the type of food I grew up eating and love, and combine that with my current skill and knowledge," he said

Written by Shweta Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: July 20, 2021 12:37:16 pm
Justin Narayan, Justin Narayan Masterchef Australia, Justin Narayan prize moneyJustin Narayan, 27, had impressed judges with many of his dishes including Indian chicken curry, chicken tacos, charcoal chicken with toum, and flatbread. (Photo: PR handout)

Justin Narayan was recently announced the the winner of MasterChef Australia Season 13. The 27-year-old old beat finalists Pete Campbell and Kishwar Chowdhury, and took home the coveted trophy. He became the second contestant of Indian origin to win the $250,000 prize money.

Soon after the win, the youth pastor took to Instagram to express his joy and wrote: “Find people that believe in you. Back yourself. Go hard and hopefully you’ll surprise yourself! Whoever’s reading this I love you.”

In an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, Narayan talked about his journey, his food dream, his most memorable moment on the cooking show and why he feared a dessert challenge.

Excerpts:

Why did you decide to participate in MasterChef Australia?

Just to give it go. I have always loved food and if there was any chance it would become more than a hobby, MasterChef was my shot at making that happen so I just thought why not.

 

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A post shared by Justin Narayan (@justinnarayan)

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your food dream?

To be completely honest, I think I’m still working that out. But I love food and love people, so something that combines those two things (which I guess is everything). I also love media so maybe a YouTube channel that would entertain people and teach them to cook could be a go.

You have a strong understanding of Indian flavours — which have always been an intrinsic part of the MasterChef kitchen. But wasn’t it a challenge to keep your creations within the ambit of the cuisine, yet different enough to stand out?

I think my food is always changing just like I am – hopefully for the better. My aim is to always pay respect to the type of food I grew up eating and love, and combine that with my current skill and knowledge.

 

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A post shared by Justin Narayan (@justinnarayan)

Who has played the biggest influence in your life when it comes to food?

That would be my mother and my grandparents. My grandma and mum would always be cooking something for someone growing up, so I was always surrounded by food in that sense and then my grandparents loved watching cooking shows which I also fell in love with so that was something I did a lot with them growing up.

Could you tell us about Fijian cuisine, and if you see any similarities with Indian foods?

I should probably get more educated about both these cuisines, but from what I know about and what I ate growing up, both have some pretty amazing ways of making seafood delicious, and doing a lovo growing up was always one of the coolest things.

 

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A post shared by Justin Narayan (@justinnarayan)

The one thing you dreaded that came up as a challenge on the show?

There is so much I don’t know about food and cooking so am I allowed to say all of it? But I guess desserts would be where I’m least experienced, so I’m working hard to turn that around.

You travelled to India in 2017, could you tell us about the trip and the food you tried?

India was incredible! I had some unbelievable food and I honestly think the best of them were cooked by the most unassuming people in homes, villages and little street food stalls. Love walking down to the corner of the street, getting a dosa and having chai tea. But the most impacting past of that trip was seeing what one of my good friends Biju Thampy is doing with his organisation called Vision Rescue where they feed and educate thousands of children in the slums. It changed my life forever and I can’t wait to try and create something that could help that organisation more or maybe even a café or restaurant in India where profits could help feed and educate even more children. Love India and can’t wait to go back!

 

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A post shared by Justin Narayan (@justinnarayan)

 While you often impressed the judges with your mouth-watering creations, what style/dish describes your cooking best?

I think I’m still discovering what that is. My type of food, when I entered, was always just the type of things my mates liked, so I guess that describes it.

What has been your most memorable moment on the show?

Cooking at Andy’s Three Blue Ducks restaurant was unreal! That kitchen was unbelievable and to cook for real diners and run your own service, that feeling is like a drug! Absolutely loved that one!

 

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A post shared by Justin Narayan (@justinnarayan)

What is comfort food for you?

Nothing beats mum’s cooking. Chicken curry, dhal, chilli chutney, roti — it is magic!

(MasterChef Australia season 13 is available on Disney+ Hotstar)

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