Good news for the culinary curious, as another lot of cooks get to prove their might in the kitchen over a battle of cuisines with Seven’s upcoming show Plate of Origin.
Cooking shows on TV have proved to be the most-watched genre even out of lockdown, and with food exploration becoming a national pastime during this pandemic, the contestants representing food communities worldwide promise to provide wanderlust from the comfort of our couch.
With the return of the immensely popular Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and Manu Fieldel as judges and contestants whittled down from hundreds of applicants, this could well become a sample that we relish for a long time.
In the Plate of Origin the tricolour is being held high by IT professional Ash and his model/actress wife Simran. They not only wish to dispel the stereotype that Indian food is all curries, they want to break the ancient Indian ‘only women should cook’ norm.
“We want to showcase that Indian food is not just about curries, and to demonstrate that it’s ok for Indian men to enter the kitchen to support families and partners,” said Ash.
Married for 14 years, the couple have two children that grew up in Australia and they wish to instill the same values their own parents shared with them when they were growing up.
“We have strong Indian roots even though Ash is brought up in the US and I moved to Australia when I was 9 years old, our parents have always instilled values of our heritage, religion, food and our culture,” added Simran.
“That is the reason we entered this show to highlight Indian food beyond butter chicken, we have dals, we have raitas, we have so much more to offer and I particularly want our new generation to know and be proud of that.”
With the diversity of Indian food, it was not an easy task to shortlist the dishes. Without disclosing much, the couple could share that the final dishes chosen were ones that Indians can relate to and demonstrate the authentic way of cooking them.
“Simran belongs to the glamour industry and she is all about Bollywood, fashion and socialising. It summarises the kind of people we are; always around families and friends entertaining and partying,” shared Ash.
“It’s definitely about colours and drama,” added Simran. “Indian food is quite dramatic and exciting like an explosion in your mouth at the same time it is our comfort food. We may try other cuisines for a change but we always come back to ghar ka khana.”
During her career Simran has won beauty pageants, walked the ramp for international designers and acted in movies. She is driven to explore the entertainment industry and Ash has always been there to support her.
“I am a typical corporate worker,” revealed Ash. “But outside of the computer software industry that I work in, I enjoy all the things that Simran does. She is passionate about her work and I am passionate about supporting her to make sure she reaches her goals. Simran is also big on fitness and health and we modified some of the recipes to add a vegan and healthy twist to it.”
“Indian food is dominated by spices but we need to remember that it’s the butter and oil that we use that makes them rich and heavy. There are many ways to change that and that’s what Simran has researched and we have brought to the table,” he continued.
According to him the selection process for Plate of Origin involved hundreds of applicants, many audition rounds and an elimination process to cull the initial numbers down to the 10 teams that will compete for the coveted prize of $100,000.
The cuisines in the competition are Vietnamese, French, Lebanese, Indian, Italian, Venezuelan, Chinese, Cameroonian, Greek and Australian. The Indian Team stars will have a face-off with the Vietnamese team, to begin with.
“Working with Matt, Manu and Gary was a dream come true, they are people that we follow and chefs who we really respect,” Ash revealed.
“Matt and Gary have immense knowledge of Indian cuisine and they willingly shared their experiences. Gary particularly had a thorough understanding of how spices can be married together and I connected to him, personally, on a different level because of his learning about Indian food that impressed me a lot. They were all very welcoming and supportive making this a wonderful experience,” he said enthusiastically.
“The judges had such a wealth of knowledge that we had to be true to what we are. There was no way we could get away with anything not authentic or compromised. This made it all the more challenging but very exciting,” agreed Simran.
When asked how they overcame the challenge of presentation along with taste, Simran laughed. “Its funny you ask that because that was the toughest part for us. Traditionally we do not plate Indian food, however I have lived here long enough to understand the aesthetics involved and was able to make it look attractive and of course ensure that it tastes as good as it looks,” she said.
The pair felt very emotionally vested in the show because they had the responsibility of holding up their country’s name in the arena of world cup of cooking.
“As Indians, we are generally very competitive by nature but this was not so much about beating another country as much as it was about making India proud,” said Ash. “It’s pretty much the Indian flag and Gods that actually helped us through,“ Simran concurred.
The Indian couple feels that their USP on the show lies in their chemistry as a married couple and their obvious love for the cuisine and country of their origin. They revealed that they were both originally from New Delhi. They first met when they were both on a holiday in India visiting their families and it was love at first sight.
“The viewers will see our camaraderie; they will see our vibrancy and creativity, and they will see a husband and wife that are vested in each other,” said Ash.
One thing that they both definitely vouch for is there’s not much backstabbing or gossip, as the teams are more focussed on sharing their heritage than outdoing each other.
“We embraced each others’ food, we supported each other throughout the show and shared the pure joy of food the one common theme that brings diverse multicultural Australia together,” said Simran to end.
Plate of Origin begins on Sunday 30th August.