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Sumeet Saigal of MasterChef: A cooking dream realised

MasterChef Australia 2024 contestant Sumeet on when she famously put lime in her pasta sauce

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Sumeet Saigal had walked into the MasterChef Australia kitchen with a dream of launching her own sauce empire one day.

She probably knew that food dream had come true when she served up her ‘Indo-Italian meatballs with naan’ at the judging table, and took in the feedback.

“It’s weird as, but I love it.”

“Literally gives you the tingles.”

“Comforting, and I just want to keep eating more and more.”

“The possibilities with it are endless…”

“Mamma Mia – lime in a pasta sauce? This is crazy… and fantastic!”

She famously won that challenge, the epithet “Sauce Boss”, and the opportunity to have her sauce bottled for Coles as “Sumeet Saigal’s InTALIAN Simmer Sauce”.

“This is better than winning MasterChef,” she had proclaimed then.

 

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Like many trained chefs from India as well as hobby cooks, MasterChef Australia contestant Sumeet Saigal has always wanted to break the myths around Indian food.

“When people think about Indian food, they straight away think it’s going to be a curry,” the 46-year-old current sensation told Indian Link. “But India is a fusion country, and our cuisine is a fusion of many cuisines – the Portuguese, French and Dutch have come in and influenced our food. There are so many different types and profiles within a ‘curry’. I wanted to break the stereotype of what a sauce or a curry is. There’s so many different ways you can use my sauce.”

Describing her InTalian sauce, she noted, “It combines two flavour profiles that have so much in common in terms of the culture. Both the cultures share the same values of family bonding over a dining table full of food and warmth, where memories are made and jokes are shared. When this challenge came up, it was a good opportunity to able to combine these flavours and bring forth a sauce that is versatile. When you think about sauces, people box it up into a cuisine. For example, it’s a butter chicken sauce or a Thai curry paste. Whereas here you have a sauce here that is a true fusion. You have the warmth of the spices, but also the freshness of the herbs. You can make a curry out of it, mix into your pasta, use it for your pizza base, cheese toastie, barbecue – there are so many applications of it. You can keep it simple or express your creativity via this sauce.”

Sumeet Saigal of MasterChef Australia 2024
“The possibilities with [your sauce] are endless…” (Source: Supplied)
Understandably, the sauce challenge was a big deal for Sumeet, but what does she pick as other memorable moments on the show this far?

“My first pressure test making Chef Jean-Christophe’s Jack in the Box was also a very special moment for me,” Sumeet recalled. “Mostly because it was such a significant milestone in Chef’s career. It was this dessert that brought him his first Michelin star. It was such an honour to be able cook that for him.”

She also really enjoyed cooking her Black Sesame Soy Icecream. “That was a fun challenge and I am so glad I got to showcase my versatility as a cook there.”

From other contestants’ cooks, Sumeet picked out for mention Sue Bazely’s salt-baked fish in the Rick Stein elimination challenge.

“Such a simple recipe but so technical and stunning! It is one I will definitely recreate with a “Sumeet” spin on it.”

She also talked about the challenges. “Yes, I’ve had my fair share of close calls,” she laughed. “As has everyone! In the initial weeks I found it hard to find my feet. I was on a journey of discovering an expression of my style of cooking and it brought me into a fair few eliminations and pressure tests.”

Summet Saigal Masterchef Australia contestant 2024
(Source: Supplied)

The mother of twins from Sydney resigned from her job as a sales manager in order to appear on MasterChef. With a deep passion for the culinary arts and science, she has been cooking and expanding her repertoire for many years. “For the competition the best preparation I did was to practice, to get all my basics right – mother sauces, pastry skills, pasta making, meat cooking temperatures, reading and learning more about ingredients that I don’t frequently use. It’s a matter of practising to perfection what you know already and learning about what you don’t know.”

Always curious and creative in the MasterChef kitchen, her inspiration comes from a stereotypical source, but with a twist. “Most people would cite their mums as their home cook inspiration, but not mine. My mother never enjoyed cooking, but whenever she used to go to the kitchen, she’d come up with something really amazing. I was always super curious about the kitchen and I got that from my grandfather, fondly called darji. He was always curious about food, ingredients and what was happening in the kitchen. My extended family in India and Australia are into the food business and as Punjabis, food is central to our lives! I’m also fascinated by the mind of Heston Blumenthal, it’s a scientific experiment that he’s doing to food.”

Sumeet Saigal of MasterChef Australia 2024
“We are fortunate to have a heritage cuisine that is complex and interesting in its flavour range” (Source: Supplied)

Sumeet is not the first Indian to be in the Top 10 for MasterChef Australia. Contestants and winners Justin Narayan, Sashi Cheliah, Depinder Chibber, Kishwar Chowdhury and Rishi Desai have made us proud in the past. What’s the secret behind Indians doing so well in the show?

“We are fortunate to have a heritage cuisine that is complex and interesting in its flavour range,” she replied. “We could have ten Indian chefs making dal and they would all make it differently! That is the beauty of our country’s cuisine. I suspect that it is one of the major reasons why we do so well in international food competitions. There is such a vast range to our foods and flavours that it is hard to encapsulate the breadth of it in any one contestant.”

For Sumeet, her dream has now gone bigger. “Sauce Boss is happening and at the moment I’m immersing myself to cherish this experience. Being in the Top 10, the eyes are on the prize, so it’s all going to unfold as we go along. Let’s see what comes up.”

We can’t wait to see where Sumeet Saigal ends up this season.

READ ALSO: Remembering Jock Zonfrillo of MasterChef Australia

 

 

Neeru Saluja
Neeru Saluja
Neeru Saluja is a freelance films and arts writer with 20 years of experience. Specialising in Bollywood celebrity interviews, she has also covered music concerts, comedy shows, plays and interviewed artists for the Sydney Film festival, the Indian Film festival in Melbourne, WOMADelaide, AACTA and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

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