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'I tried to modernise the Indian flavours at MasterChef'

Last updated on: October 14, 2013 21:54 IST

Rishi DesaiRishi Desai, 35, originally from Kolhapur, Maharashtra, is one of the 22 contestants still in the running on the television cooking show, MasterChef Australia 2013.

Rishi, who now lives in Queanbeyan in New South Wales with his wife Mitra and their six-year-old son Sharang, is a public servant.

He credits his skill and knowledge of cooking to his mother. “The inspiration and knowledge comes from my mother. She is a great cook and produces some amazing Indian food with ordinary ingredients."

Rishi's interest in the culinary arts began at the early age of five, when he would watch his mother cook full meals for 14 members of the Desai family. “My mother tells me that I cooked something up at five. Since then I've always had this thing for food. “It's something I go to when I'm stressed. It’s something I go to when I'm bored and angry. Basically, with any kind of emotion I end up in the kitchen."

So what is that one dish that he remembers cooking when he was young?

“I was 13 and wanted to bake a healthy cake using atta instead of maida. The cake turned out rock solid! I could throw it on somebody's head and they could get hurt (laughs). It was a disaster."

Heston Blumenthal, the acclaimed British chef, who appeared on the show, is his inspiration too. “My memorable moment was when Heston Blumenthal was in the kitchen. He is my food hero so talking to him and getting to know him was the most memorable moment."

He doesn’t think being from India made it difficult to cook on an Australian cooking show. “It doesn't matter where you are from as long as you cook and learn on the show. It’s about how much you can pick up as you go along. Not how much you know.”

MasterChef has changed the way he cooks, Rishi says. “We had people from diverse backgrounds on the show. We all learnt from each other. We learnt different techniques from the show.”

He does bring an Indian touch to his cooking, though. “What I did on the show was to take my Indian flavours and make them modern," he explains.

Rish says life has changed after MasterChef. “People recognise me. Earlier I would cook as a hobby but now it’s more of a career option.”

He adds, “I am writing a book. It will be a modern Indian cookbook and will have a modern take on Indian traditional recipes.”

Rajul Hegde in Mumbai