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CHENNAI: It’s not day-after-day that Chennai foodies get an opportunity to feast on treats served by MasterChef contestants. However it appeared like their prayers had been answered on Saturday when three stars of MasterChef India season 6 — Abinas Nayak (the title winner), Natasha Gandhi and Mahendra Thulung (Rudy) — took over the kitchen of Dank resto-bar in T Nagar.
When you’ve got been a MasterChef fan — Indian or some other model — you’d be well-versed with the rounds, particularly the one by which contestants are divided into groups, assigned to arrange a full-course meal after which current it to diners. This was the scene on Saturday midday on the restobar — albeit with out the scores and time restrict.
They had been within the metropolis to flag off their Tour de India meals pop-up. Followers of the present and foodies got here in droves to participate within the three-hour beautiful culinary expertise deliberate by the trio. Just a few inquisitive eyes tried to get a sneak peek of the meals being prepped, a number of others managed clicking selfies with the cooks, who had been busy shuttling between the kitchen and tables.
A hearty twist
Anticipating an extended brunch forward, I stored my eyes glued to the menu card. The five-course meal offered by the trio had a private twist to Dank’s current menu, utilizing native condiments. All programs had vegetarian and non-vegetarian variants. Our meal opened with Arancini, a Sicilian staple. The deep-fried snack, full of purple rice, ghee, and cheese, got here with accompaniments like fried basil, garlic podi and coconut mustard dip. The crispy texture matched with the tacky ooze was an explosion of flavours. Setting our expectations excessive, subsequent up was a pita bread full of a tandoor kebab and served with Center-Jap lachha salad (manufactured from onion, chat powder and lemon).
The non-vegetarian variant of the kebab had small chunks of hen compactly packed into triangular pita pockets. Each chunk discovered favour with our tongues and tummies. Subsequent on the menu was a bao with a standard Bhutanese hen. The semi-gravy was positioned on a lettuce in-between two slices of a bao and offered like a burger. Whereas the baos had been pillowy and mildly candy, the filling was mildly spiced, assuring an extended and lazy style of the cosy afternoon.
No marvel when my favorite of the lot — black momo ravioli with hen filling paired with peanut chutney and roasted tomato and garlic sauce — was served, I allowed the energy to pile on with torpid grace. The nutty flavours of the peanut chutney and tanginess from tomato-garlic even perhaps did a little bit dance with each chunk, as I stored my head bent with complete focus. It wasn’t straightforward to emerge from this bao-wow with out burping fortunately, particularly when endurance was the important thing ingredient as we waited for the dessert.
Because the cooks hustled with the ultimate touches whereas plating the sinful pleasures, we watched with popping eyes and hopping coronary heart as a heat millet cake topped with gentle cream cheese, paired with pineapple sorbet and nut crumble, made its light solution to our desk. Ditching our not-so-immense reserve of willpower, we surrendered to this melt-inthe- mouth crumble, the style of which lingers hours after the expertise. “The plates had been cleaned and their eyes carried a sparkle whereas speaking in regards to the meals. That’s all mattered to us,” mentioned a joyous Natasha. After whipping up a storm within the kitchen for 100 plates of the five-course meal, the trio sat down for a free-wheeling chat with CE about their fondness for town, working collectively as a staff and their plans for Tour de India. Excerpts.
What had been the components that you just thought-about whereas curating this menu?
Natasha: We wished to current delicacies that might resonate with Chennaiites, by incorporating some native condiments. The primary course had garlic podi as an accompaniment and the fourth course had a peanut chutney. Secondly, we shortlisted essentially the most demanded objects from our followers on social media platforms whereas maintaining in thoughts our strengths. Abinas was good with kebabs, millet cake was my forte and Rudy’s speciality was bao. That’s how all the weather sat properly collectively on the balanced menu we supplied. Rudy: We’ve been planning for the meals pop-up since final yr. All this whereas, individuals have been seeing us on MasterChef and thru dwell periods on social media. So this was the chance to get on the sector and provides our greatest so individuals can relate to us higher.
Tel l us about your staff dynamics.
Natasha: We stayed collectively for 4 months throughout MasterChef. We’re conscious of one another’s strengths, weaknesses and specialities. Most significantly, everyone knows how the opposite particular person works below stress. It was the belief issue that helped maintain our nerves in examine contained in the kitchen.
In the event you had been to create one thing distinctive with a south Indian ingredient, what wouldn’t it be?
How would you current it? Natasha: I’d love a dessert with curry leaves. A mixture of curry leaves and chilli icecream can be fabulous. Abinas: I’d make a barbecue sauce with podi and ghee, and gown it on grilled wings. Rudy: Rasam is a private favorite. A dim sum with rasam as an alternative of the same old soup can be one thing enjoyable to aim.
What do foodies count on today?
Rudy: Once I’m giving my delicacies, I share a quick description of what went into the making of a delicacy in order that they’ll relate to it. Generally even they ask for it as every palate is completely different.
Natasha: Persons are conscious of the elements and strategies of preparation, with publicity to a lot that’s accessible on social media. So I would favor going round, checking on them and getting their suggestions straight. It’s much like the tasting session we had on MasterChef. Individuals who eat our meals listed below are the judges.
Abinas: Whereas the technical facet of meals could be ignored at instances, the emotional facet is necessary. It’s your meals that’s going to carry individuals again their recollections of getting eaten them from the palms of their grandmother or elsewhere. You should clarify to them for his or her higher understanding.
What had been your classes from the pandemic-induced lockdown?
Natasha: I put out a 21-day recipe problem. On-line cooking courses stored me busy. Most significantly, I used to be in a position to promote my enterprise, Home of Millets, on social media.
Abinas: I opened a dessert bar in Bhubaneshwar. I additionally got here out with an e-book titled Masala by Abinas.
Rudy: I needed to shut down my restaurant Dallay in Chennai. I singlehandedly began taking orders for
dwelling supply. It was time to discover completely different enterprise fashions.
What do you want about Chennai and its meals scene?
Natasha: I like the idli and sambhar, and Murugan Idli store. We additionally went to Kappa Chakka Kandhari.
Biryani too is certainly on our menu. Though we now have a packed schedule, I’m positive we are able to spare
a while and there’s no compromise on meals.
Rudy: The meals scene in Chennai is multicultural however underrated.
Rudy: Tour de India is a crucial milestone in our profession. We plan to journey round India and have meals pop-ups. Subsequent on the checklist is a two-day pageant in Kolkata in February. I additionally wish to take our Indian delicacies to a world platform.
Abinas: I’m engaged on opening a restaurant. It’s additionally a dream to advertise Odisha’s delicacies.
Natasha: I wish to make my glutenfree truffles to be accessible everywherein the nation.