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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prelude to Grand Finale of Master Chef India Season2

Every week-end, Saturday and Sunday at 9pm, food lovers in India switched on their TV sets to watch the amateur cooks churn out some innovative dishes in the program called ‘Master Chef India’. This program has changed many lives since Master Chef India season 1 and India is convinced that a mundane activity such as cooking can also be a ticket to fame and success.

Presently, the theme “Ab Badlo India Khaane ka Andaz’ in the season2 aimed to bring a change in the way India perceives food.

On Star Plus Channel, people  watched the Grand Finale show of Master Chef India Season2, there were 5 finalists who were competing against India’s popular chef, Sanjeev Kapoor in a game called ‘Aamne Saamne’. The participants had to re-produce the same dish, cooking along side with Sanjeev Kapoor and match his speed, efficiency and the flavor of the food. The participants (Joseph, VijayaLaxmi, Rajendra, Shipra and Shazia) tasted the dish called ‘Naya Sham Savera’ which was actually a platter of paneer-corn-samosa potli, paneer –greens- kofta curry, pulav and sugar Spin.

Many Indians enjoy this cookery show, especially because besides cooking there is also a drama element and an excitement in the Indian edition of this show

125 countries around the world telecast the cookery game show ‘Master Chef’ with the same logo, which was originated with the UK version of this show. Amongst all the other different countries ‘Master Chef Australia’ is one of my favorite versions and I have enjoyed every episode of this Australia chapter.

The invitation by Star Plus Channel for press conference got me interested in peeping behind the scenes to experience a prelude to ‘Cook-off with Sanjeev kapoor on the sets of MasterChef IndiaSeason2.
Naturally I was interested. I reached the RK studios at Chembur, (in Mumbai) all prepared to watch the show and the studio. There were people from print media and TV channels, all alert to take notes and click pictures.

The two chefs, Kunal Kapoor and Vikas Khanna took us on the tour around the set showing us the different cabins for storage of food and utensils and to the different meeting stations, all so meticulously furnished that it was impossible to believe that all this set –up was just a temporary arrangement and that there would be just an empty hall once the show comes to an end.

I took pictures of the kitchen, storage rooms and all the artifacts that were displayed at the sets and then followed the crowd to a living-room for some interaction with the hosts of the show.

I had met Vikas Khanna, earlier at the Food-Bloggers-Meet, and knew that his gastronomic philosophy is to deliver innovative and luxurious meals. He has won many hearts by laying his interest on ingredients, flavors and textures. What first attracts you about Vikas is his smiling and warm face which immediately makes you feel at ease. Vikas started his own catering business at the age of 17 and he has authored several books including ‘The Spice Story of India’, ‘Modern Indian Cooking’ and ‘Flavors first’. There was a big crowd surrounding him asking him questions about his interest in cooking and his other hobbies.

I sat next to Kunal Kapoor to have some interaction with him. Kunal Kapoor was the host in ‘Master Chef India Season1’ too and he is quite versatile and friendly person. He started his career from Taj group of hotels and has spanned his culinary gamut in Indian cuisine across banquet operations, different theme dinners, outdoor catering, creative menus, and various buffet set-ups.

I listened as he spoke about his passion for food pointing out ‘the right attitude’ as the most important ingredient for a tasty meal. His mantra for success is to have experience and the presence of a sound mind.

When at leisure at home, I open my fridge to check all the ingredients and then decide how best I can use it to create an unusual dish” he says.

Using his imagination and innovation, he kills the monotonous cooking by creating and recreating the same dish with different ingredients keeping the five points in mind,: attitude, right recipe, correct cooking utensils, correct raw ingredients and visualizing the balance of flavors that you want to achieve.

It becomes difficult to cook just one kind of authentic food without any innovation” he says. “Since India has a population of mixed cultures and caste, and people like variety of food, I prefer my restaurant to be multi-cuisine.”

When asked about the presence of more male chefs than women in the food industry, he says, “Women are expected to cook in every home, this is the first basic task that is taught. For a woman to do the same kind of work at home and outside becomes very tedious and boring, moreover, cooking is not a glorified profession, there is too much mental and physical stamina required and women prefer to work in a different field outside their home.” he complained of his friends and family, who often taunted him by addressing him as ‘bawarchi’.

Besides his interest for cooking, Kunal Kapoor also has passion for music, travel and photography.
The questions and answers session could go on forever, but it was time now to watch the prelude to ‘Cook-off-with Sanjeev Kapoor’ which was specially organized for the press conference. We were introduced to the five finalists and two special guests, TV serial stars, Riddi Dogra and Rajesh Vashisth of ‘Maryada-Lekin Kab Tak’ fame who arrived with chief guest-Sanjeev Kapoor..

The show began, the dish to be cooked was ‘Porcupiny steamed Kababs’. The five finalists were asked to reproduce the same dish along side with Sanjeev Kapoor matching his speed, taste and style. Although this was just a prelude, there was much stress in the air during cooking period, as each participant tried their best to compete. Many of us tasted the kababs made by Sanjeev Kapoor and the other participants. The dish was so tasty that participants were inspired to make extra portions for everybody to taste.

There was a party like atmosphere after the prelude with all the media and print journalist exchanging stories with the participants and the hosts, clicking pictures, and after a cup-a-coffee, we departed to share our rich experience with whomsoever was ready to listen to us, till we all sat down to formally jot down our visuals of that day.

Recipe of Porcupiny-Steam-Kababs

Ingredients for kababs
250 grams chicken kheema
½ inch ginger
1 teaspoon chopped celery
1 finely chopped green chilies
1 cup soaked rice (rice soaked in 1 cup of water for one hour)
Salt to taste

  1. Grind to a fine paste the mixture of chicken kheema, ginger, celery, green chilies and salt.
  2. Roll it into round ball.
  3. Coat it with soaked rice
  4. Steam it for ten minutes.
  5. Serve with soya sauce dip
Ingredients for Soya-sauce-dip
1 tsp soya sauce
½ teaspoon chopped chives
½ inch ginger
½ tsp vinegar
1 finely chopped green chilies
1 tsp honey
Method for Soya-sauce-dip
Make the dip by mixing Soya sauce, chives, ginger, vinegar, salt, honey and green chilies in 1 cup of water.

This article appeared in the latest issue of 'Beyond Sindh' a magazine published from HongKong.

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