Our very own Junior MasterChefs: Every Indian mum’s delight

SHANIA O'BRIEN and RHEA L NATH report

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Imagine cooking a lamb Mughlai curry with saffron rice, cucumber raita, coriander chutney, and smoked chicken kebab in 3 hours. Now imagine cooking it all in just 75 minutes. Exhausting? Possibly. But Dev Mishra, 13-year-old contestant on Junior MasterChef Australia, accomplished exactly that – and became the apple of every Indian mother’s eye in the process.

Dev Mishra Cooking
Dev Mishra

Judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong, and Jock Zonfrillo – all legendary in their own right – gushed over Dev’s cooking.

“That’s definitely my favourite memory so far,” Dev told Indian Link. “When the judges asked me to bring in pictures of my parents and brother, I truly felt like they were in the room with me.”

Building off of this experience, the Melbourne lad said that the judges’ emotional reaction to his food was what really stood out to him, calling it “the best compliment any cook can ever get.”

Dev calls cooking his “favourite thing to do, by far”, crediting his Indian parents with teaching him all there is to know about flavours and techniques.

Both online and offline, Dev has become a hot topic of conversation. Indian Link’s social media has been flooded with comments praising the rising star’s talent. They’ve also credited his parents, who moved to Australia from Patna in 2001, for keeping their family rooted with their heritage.

Ryan Cheliah experimenting with honey
Ryan Cheliah

And though eliminated this past Tuesday, 11-year-old Ryan Cheliah isn’t one to overlook. When asked about why he set his sights on Junior MasterChef, Ryan cited his “immense passion for cooking” along with “cooking on TV like [his] dad did” as major factors.

His dad of course is Sashi Cheliah, winner of MasterChef Australia 2018.

“When I opened the email that confirmed my position in the competition, I was so excited,” Ryan told Indian Link. “Not many kids get the opportunity to cook on TV. I immediately started practising my signature dish!”

In his introduction, he said that his food draws on Indian, Chinese, and Malaysian influences. (His father Sashi was born and brought up in Singapore to Indian migrant parents, cooking food with Malaysian and Singaporean influences.)

One of his dishes presented to the judges included a spicy mushroom stir fry topped with grilled chicken and crispy chicken skin. Yummy!

READ ALSO: Sashi Cheliah: Winning pins…and hearts

Dev Mishra on Junior Masterchef Australia
Dev Mishra

Having been cooking for four years now, Dev also said he also enjoyed cooking Italian cuisine and Heston Blumenthal-inspired desserts. That claim was put to the test with Junior MasterChef’s honey-themed challenge, and Dev rose to the occasion with his honey and vanilla ice cream with spiced strawberries and a spiced strawberry sauce. (Reminder – he’s only 13 years old!)

The experience of entering the kitchen itself is magnificent. Ryan’s first thought was about “being up on the gantry a couple of years ago to watch my dad cook. Those are big shoes to fill!” On the contrary, it was Dev’s first time in the kitchen. “It was like a dream come true,” he said. “I was so happy to be in a place that I watched on TV for many years. I could not believe it at first that I actually made it to the MasterChef Kitchen.”

The best part of the competition, both Dev and Ryan agree, was getting to cook alongside other people their age. They expressed how lovely it was to share their passions with people with similar interests, this inherent bond bringing them closer together to learn from and held one another. “We have lots of fun together!” Dev remarked.

However, one of the biggest challenges the boys faced was the timed factor of the competition cooks. “When I cook at home, I can take all the time I need to make a dish look perfect. But in the MasterChef kitchen I was always thinking about time and dividing up my tasks,” said Ryan.

Ryan Cheliah on Junior Masterchef Australia
Ryan Cheliah

Dev said that he has eventually gotten used to the time limit, and that honing this skill will be essential in future and in adult life.

“But I am happy to have this practice, as it will help me when I have to cook things quickly – if we don’t have any dinner at home and my family is hungry.”

What Dev and Ryan have in common is the pride they feel when their food represents their cultural heritage and the shared belief that anyone can cook. Dev talked about the cooking channel he started this March, Kiddelicious. He posts recipe videos on it and believes that age and gender are irrelevant when it comes to cooking. “I really want to promote cooking through my channel, and share it with as many people as possible.”

Ryan Cheliah on Junior MasterChef Australia
Ryan Cheliah

When asked about important takeaways and possible advice for people anywhere who would like to start cooking but don’t know how, Ryan started off practically by saying: “Taste your food after every step of the process, and don’t forget to season.”

But more importantly, he added, “Give it your all. Cook with your heart, and your soul. Don’t be afraid of failure. There is always something to learn from it”.

Wise words from someone so young?

Well, we’ve come to expect great things from these young guns – and are keeping our fingers tightly crossed to see Dev take it all the way to the finals.

READ ALSO: When Matt Preston came to dinner at Helly Raichura’s EnterViaLaundry