By – Meenakshi Mahadevan
Her journey in Masterchef Australia may have ended sooner than anticipated, but that’s not going to stop Nidhi Mahajan from making her dream come true. The only Indian entrant in this season of the very popular show managed to quickly become a favourite of the judges even within the short time she spent in the Masterchef house. The Indian Telegraph caught up with Nidhi Mahajan to know more.
IT: You have been in Australia for just a little over two years. How does it feel to have already been part of such a world-renowned show?
NIDHI: It is unbelievable, surreal and magical. I keep asking myself what I have done right in life to be here today. I am so proud of myself. It’s what I always dreamt of but never imagined to achieve. It’s like I have ticked off one major thing from my bucket list.
IT: So you always had a dream of becoming a chef?
NIDHI: Well, food was always at the top of my mind. Khana Khazana and Tarla Dalal’s shows were my favourite shows growing up and I always dreamt of wearing the chef’s hat someday. The kitchen was a happier place than the classroom for me but I soon realised hospitality as an educative sector in India wasn’t for girls. So I put my dreams aside but couldn’t forget them. When my husband and I moved to Australia in search of a better lifestyle, he noticed how passionate I was about food. I would plan menu for guests all day and cook with love. Even in my uni, I would discuss food and recipes with all my friends. My suppressed dream started to resurface.
IT: And that’s how Masterchef happened?
NIDHI: Yes, and no! Like I said, the dream to have a career in food resurfaced and I could see that this country had more opportunities than I ever would have had back home in India. But I had to wait till I got my PR to think of anything. Once that happened, my husband first suggested and then totally insisted on me applying for Masterchef. He felt my passion for food should not be wasted. And he kept on encouraging me saying, “What is the worst that can happen? You would lose, right? But at least you would’ve tried”, he said. That’s how Masterchef happened. My husband Sumit takes and gets all credit for it.
IT: And so you ended up on the show amidst the judges and other contestants. Describe that day for us.
NIDHI: (Laughs) You won’t believe me if I told you. I kept pinching myself. I was totally gobsmacked. All the people I had admired on television were right there. I can’t explain how I felt. It was a feeling like love – inexplicable. To say ‘I felt happy’ is just too small a phrase to explain my feelings.
IT: You constantly received a lot of positive feedback on your flavours. Is there a secret?
NIDHI: That credit goes to my father. He taught me to identify flavours very well. He would always ask me to keep tasting my dish until my heart and mind were in sync with regards to the flavour. Other than that, I know what the secret is – I cook with my heart and soul. And my hands are full of love when I cook and serve. The flavour is bound to be right.
IT: One of the judges – Marco Pierre White commented that he would love to stop by your restaurant and eat your food every day. That must have felt special?
NIDHI: For a second I thought my ears were drumming. It is the biggest compliment anyone has ever given me in life. A person like him… I was on cloud nine. I am at a loss of words to explain what that meant to me.
IT: So is that restaurant Marco spoke about happening anytime soon?
NIDHI: Cooking and food is like therapy for me. Good day/bad day/emotional day – the answer is always cooking. So whatever I may do going forward, it’ll be about food and cooking for sure. But the restaurant will have to wait. It’s a big decision to make and not one I’m prepared for just yet. I need to ensure I’m secure in all fronts to take that leap pf faith. But I’m going to start a small catering service from home for now. Along with my husband, I want to have a set menu take away tiffin service something like the dabba service in India. I might also explore the online business option.
IT: You also wanted to write a book. Is it true?
NIDHI: Yes, I want to. And maybe straight away. I am totally into reading and I have always wanted to write about myself. But now I think I will write about cooking, my love for food, recipes, my journey through these recipes and also share my feelings about every time I created a new recipe.
IT: So you do have your plate full and future sorted. So are you the chef at home as well?
NIDHI: (Smiles) Mostly. Unless my husband manages to annoy me. Then he cooks. To convince me. After all, he for sure knows the way to my heart is through my stomach.