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A candid chat with MasterChef Australia contestant Nidhi Mahajan

Her cauliflower paratha might have knocked her out of Season 8 of MasterChef Australia but Nidhi Mahajan, the lone desi contestant, is living her food dream. Excerpts from an interview

Q. Take us back in time to your first brush with cooking. How old were you, and did it leave an impression?
A. I was around seven-eight years old when I started helping my mother in the kitchen. I loved helping her and going to fruit and veggie markets with my father. Kitchens have always attracted me and I find it very calming to be just there.

Nidhi Mahajan, who hails from Chandigarh, cooks it up during an episode of Season 8
Nidhi Mahajan, who hails from Chandigarh, cooks it up during an episode of Season 8

Q. What was your first truly adventurous encounter with cooking?
A. I remember, as a 12-year-old, one day my parents had gone out and were expected to return at dinnertime. Mum had cooked a stir-fry that I never liked. So, I thought of making daal and rice by myself using my recipe, which I had cut from a newspaper. I was a bit scared but confident enough to make an entire meal. My parents were surprised when they saw the dining table set with my mother’s special occasion crockery on the table.

Q. When did you realise that food would play an important part of your life?
A. There was never a realizing moment but I have always known that food is one thing that makes me happy and I want to do something in food before I die even after pursuing a different career.

Q. What were some of the most intriguing/ under-rated ingredients that have caught your fancy or challenge you each time you step into the kitchen?
A. The most under-rated ingredient for me is rice. I love to cook with different varieties of rice.

Q. As a contestant, which part of the show scares you the most?
A. Elimination!

Q. What do such food shows teach you that you can never learn at home, no matter how good a cook you are?
A. Time management and working with unique ingredients, and learning that I am more capable of doing things than I used to think I was capable of.

Q. If you had a wish, where would you like to realise your cooking dream, and what would it be?
A. My cooking dream is to cook for Marco Pierre White again, not in the MasterChef Kitchen but in my kitchen. The show airs on Star World at 8 pm on weekdays

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