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‘My ultimate dream is to keep doing what I’ve started on MasterChef’: Kishwar Chowdhury

"Bengali cuisine hasn’t been explored, by and large, worldwide. I definitely think there's a talking point and key interest in a rich, heritage cuisine that 200 million people eat, but is quite untapped," she said

Written by Shweta Sharma | New Delhi |
August 11, 2021 12:30:41 pm
Kishwar Masterchef, Kishwar Chowdhury, Kishwar Chowdhury panta bhaatKishwar Chowdhury was a grand finalist on the latest season of MasterChef Australia. (Photo: PR handout)

Kishwar Chowdhury’s stint on the latest season of MasterChef Australia had started with a “massive feedback” from the judges. Over time, she kept impressing Andy Allen, Melissa Leong, Jock Zonfrillo and fellow contestants with her lip-smacking creations, techniques and knowledge about Bengali food. But it was her decision to cook ‘panta bhaat’, ‘aloo bhorta’ alongside sardine and a side of salsa for the grand finale episode of the show that made her an instant household name.

Sharing a picture of her final dish on the show, Kishwar said: “The extraordinary chefs and mentors I met on my journey here, inspired me to research ancient traditions and techniques and reimagine dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation. Culinary genius @thehestonblumenthalteam had me thinking about the exciting concept of ‘Smoked Water’. Meeting @scottpickettchef and finding out he has Charcoal Smoked Water on his menu, gave me the confidence to reach into my repertoire of dishes that people from my culture only serve at home. So here is my last and final homage to a dish that deserves this stage. As @zonfrillo put it, this food belongs here. It’s been an honour to be able to bring this food to the Masterchef Australia platform.”

Busy honing her culinary skills after enjoying massive success on the popular cooking show, the grand finalist talks to indianexpress.com about her journey, her dream and her love for Bengali cuisine. Excerpts:

You started the season with a bang, with your first cook being hailed as the most delicious thing chef Jock Zonfrillo had eaten in the year. Were you expecting such a feedback?

Thank you so much. I don’t think any homecook expects such massive feedback on the first day.

When did you decide to participate in MasterChef Australia?

During the lockdown in 2020 at the persistence of my son who always believed I could do this.

Bangladeshi cuisine is your strength and you have always spoken about wanting to keep its legacy alive — how do you plan to proceed with the plan?

I wish to begin by writing my book and promote my heritage food by sharing it through various platforms.

Bangladeshi cuisine has not really been explored on the show, which has always embraced diverse cuisines. Do you think that gave you an added advantage on the show?

I am part Indian-Bengali and part Bangladeshi. Bengali cuisine hasn’t been explored by and large worldwide. I definitely think there’s a talking point and key interest in a rich, heritage cuisine that 200 million people eat, but is quite untapped.

What are the things that kept you going in a pressure test or even a mystery box challenge?

Pressure tests are all about resilience and mystery boxes are all about creative thinking. I have more fun with conceptual and creative cooking.

How challenging was it to come up with new recipes while also ensuring that it stands above the rest on the show?

I’m quite lucky that I had huge artillery of dishes to dig into. I try and stay quite authentic to the cuisines I’m cooking, but mostly, I’m inspired by the produce that was in the pantry that day.

Who have been your biggest food inspirations?

Atul Kochhar, Anthony Bourdain and Kylie Kwong.

You were born and raised in Australia. Could you tell us how you have managed to keep the spirit of Bangladeshi food alive in your home in all these years?

My parents found various ways to hold onto their Indian and Bangladeshi roots. In our household, we grew up cooking and eating at least one Bengali meal together. We celebrated all the special occasions like Boishaki, Eid, Holi, Diwali, weddings, Winter Pitha Melas with an abundance of specialty dishes and sweets. That’s where I got to cook and learn from my elders about all the significance of Bengali food, the occasions we eat them on and how to prepare a lot of the very technical dishes.

You usually stayed away from desserts and also call yourself a savoury cook. Did you fear it could be a problem?

I think being on MasterChef we all have our strengths. I do cook desserts, I started baking with my mother and now I bake with my children. I make halwas and Bengali desserts, but I definitely love cooking savoury more because I don’t have a sweet tooth.

What is your ultimate dream?

My ultimate dream is to keep doing what I’ve started here on MasterChef. Cook, share my food, share my heritage, write my book and hopefully create a legacy by bringing Bengali food to the world.

MasterChef Australia Season 13 can be streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.

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