MasterChef Australia

Indian origin contestants who have added spice to “MasterChef Australia” with their skills: (Top left to right) Dalwinder Dhami, Neha Sen, Sandeep Pandit and (Bottom left to right) Rishi Desai and Sashi Cheliah. (photo provided)

MUMBAI—Food speaks a universal language, one that transcends cultures and borders, and no other show has portrayed this as well and as successfully as “MasterChef Australia.” Even after a decade since its launch, the show draws in interest from viewers across the world, and especially from India.

While Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris, and Matt Preston have become household names, Indian contestants in the show have also gone on to achieve success in the culinary world. With Sandeep Pandit stirring up a storm in the MasterChef kitchen in Season 11, here is a look at some Indian origin contestants who have added spice and ‘tadka’ to the show with their skills.

Here are six names who cooked up a storm on the show:

Dalwinder Dhami (Season 4)

She was the first Indian to get selected and was an inspiration for everyone who came next. She was so popular for her amazing blend of spicy Singaporean cuisine with North Indian ‘tadkas’ that George Calombaris said the curry she had made was the best curry he has ever tasted. Post “MasterChef,” Dhami started selling her Indian dishes, including her top three dishes on the show, in Singapore’s local market.

Rishi Desai (Season 5)

This native of Kolhapur made his mark on the show from the first day’s egg challenge itself. His simple approach of skilfully combining seafood with Indian spices made him a hit on the show. One of the top five contestants that year, Desai won the hearts of judges and the audience and received the title of “Muscle Man” from Matt Preston.

Neha Sen (Season 5)

From being an IT advisor to now a successful entrepreneur in Australia, Sen made her journey with the old recipes from her mother’s kitchen in the show. Her ice-creams and chutneys are retailed in gourmet shops and supermarkets across Australia today, and many top restaurants offer her range on their menus.

Deepali Behar (Season 6)

A dentist with her roots in Gujarat, Behar stunned the judges with her potato curry. Continuing her victory with gujiya, chicken curry and pot stickers, she even aced the cooking of beef during a challenge. After her exit from the show, she launched Deepali’s Delights that feature a wide range of pickles, jams, preserves and chutneys.

Sashi Cheliah (Season 10)

Taking a break in Season 9, this Indian returned with a big bang, and not only won hearts but also the title in the 10th season. Cheliah’s culinary journey began in Singapore, where he helped his mother at her café. His roots link him back to Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Prior to joining the show, he worked as a prison officer at a women’s prison. The “MasterChef Australia” champion aimed to replicate the Indian, Malay and Chinese cooking he was exposed to in his youth while on the show.

Sandeep Pandit (Season 11)

The current fan favorite, Pandit has not only made Jammu and Kashmir but all of India proud by being selected on the show. From Rogan Josh (lamb meat with red gravy) to Yakhni (lamb meat prepared in yogurt), Hakh (collard green; the staple diet of Kashmir), MujiChetin (reddish chutney) and Tehr (yellow rice), Sandeep expressed his feelings through Kashmiri cuisine and eventually impressed the judges. Sandeep has been cooking since he was nine. From helping his mother in the kitchen to making tea and trying his hand at some old recipes, he has dabbled in all kinds of cooking to pursue his passion.

Right now, “MasterChef Australia 11” is streaming on HotStar Premium.

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