She made her first independent dish (Batata Talaasan) when she was 11 — Madhushree Rao, the winner of the first season of WebChef, a web-based talent hunt for India’s best amateur chef, is not a trained chef but loves to play with spices and condiments.
Madhushree Rao seen during her face-off
“I was always inclined towards cooking. My mother is an amazing cook, and I have been helping her in the kitchen since childhood. Slowly, I started creating my own dishes and got interested in exploring different cuisines and recipes,” shares Rao, who is currently pursuing her Final Year (Bachelors) in History, Economics and Sociology at Bangalore’s Mount Carmel College.
Rao reveals that her encounter with WebChef was purely by chance. “I was browsing sites online and came across an ad by WebChef. I registered but when I realised that I would have to send a video of myself cooking a dish, I dropped the idea because I had no knowledge of how to make a video,” the 22-year-old recalls.
But life had other plans for her. When she spoke to her sister (a Mumbai-based media professional) about the same, she encouraged her to participate and explained the know-how of making a video. Asking her parents to double up as camerapersons, Rao got a video of herself shot, which got shortlisted, eventually.
“After much thought, I decided to cook my grandmother’s recipe of Prawn Green Masala. The dish, which includes prawns, grated coconut, chillies, onions, tomatoes, tamarind, jeera and coriander, can be consumed with rice or chapatti and is relished by people,” shares Rao, who was one of the five finalists who met for an on-ground activity as a face-off.
However, though the Bangalore girl enjoys cooking a lot, she isn’t keen to take it up as a full-time profession. “I don’t wish to become a chef because I feel it is extremely laborious to be in the kitchen for five-six hours, every day. I would rather do something else and satiate my cooking desire once in a while,” reasons Rao. But the winner is keen to open a restaurant if she can manage the resources — “...such that won’t include me in the kitchen all the time,” she signs off.
How Madhushree won
FameBox, a multi-channel talent platform for digital media, launched a web-based talent hunt for the best amateur chef in the country. The online reality show on www.youtube.com/user/FameboxWebchef was hosted and judged by food critic Vir Sanghvi, and had invited participants from across India. The show, which will be an annual affair, crowned Madhushree Rao as India’s best Web Chef after three rounds of intensive competition that spanned six weeks.
Madhushree now has the opportunity to set up a YouTube channel to showcase her talent along with a cash prize of `1 lakh.
Rao being crowned with the winner’s hat by Vir Sanghvi
To participate, contestants had to upload a short video of them cooking a complete dish. The entries were judged on creativity in conceptualisation and preparation of the dish as well as the packaging and presentation of the entire video. The top shortlisted entries were uploaded to the WebChef channel.
As the competition zeroed in to the top five contestants, their popularity was adjudged based on viewer votes. The top five, chosen based on the combined scores of judges and viewers, were moved into the final round. In the grand finale, these five amateur cooks faced-off for an ultimate cooking challenge where they were judged by a panel of experts and industry experts, to choose India’s first and best WebChef. Rao’s competitors in the finale were Sneha Dutta, Samina Patel, Sandeep Shreedharan and Yuvraj Jadhav.