Celebrity chefs in Bengaluru

Sarah Todd and Ben Ungermann rose to popularity after their appearances in MasterChef Australia in 2014 and 2017.

Sarah Todd spends many months in India every year.

Sarah keen to open restaurant in city

Celebrity chef and restauranteur Sarah Todd rose to popularity after her stint in MasterChef Australia Season 6 in 2014. She surprised many and won the hearts of her Indian fans when she cooked ‘aloo gobi’; she became an overnight sensation with her social media following jumping by 50,000 followers.

She is trained in French cuisine from ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ and has gained experience alongside Michelin star chef’s Neil Borthwick and Angela Hartnett.

The Australian chef was in the city to launch the Christmas edition of Swiggy Signatures in association with Chai Point, on Saturday. In a chat with Surupasree Sarmmah, Sarah spoke about her experience on MasterChef Australia, her debut book and more.

You started off as a model. How did you get into the food industry? 

I have always been looking for what I am passionate about. I loved modelling because it involved travelling and good exposure. However, I realised that I can do it only for a certain period of time. I have also studied photography and then trained to become a makeup artist but none of these things were fitting into my life. I finally started cooking and instantly found my calling.

Tell us about your collaboration with Swiggy? 

Swiggy wanted me to blend Australian and Indian Christmas celebrations and come up with some easy tea-time snacks with a festive feel. That’s how I came up with dishes like samosas with cranberry sauce and desserts like mango tart, which is huge in Australia during Christmas.  

What’s in the menu for Christmas? 

We have ‘Chicken Kheema Samosas with Cranberry and Beetroot Chutney’, ‘Mumbai Vada Pav’ with the same chutney, ‘Paneer Rogan Josh Pie’ — and its non-vegetarian counterpart ‘Chicken Rogan Josh Pie’ — ‘Coconut and Mango Tart’ and ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’ on the menu.     

You have a restaurant in Goa...

Yes, it completed four years this year. Though I have worked in a kitchen before, this was my first attempt at managing an entire place. I learnt everything about a restaurant, from branding to structural details. For me, it’s not only about having your name on the board but learning every detail about the entire process of running such a place.

Which means you visit India often? 

Yes, I spend at least seven months a year in India.

How did MasterChef Australia change your life? 

It was an incredible experience! It did get extremely stressful but you don’t always get to cook for three judges who are among the best chefs in the world. The four-and-a-half months were a learning period for me; it was like a degree in itself. I was a completely different cook by the end of the show; I started understanding flavours a lot more, balancing a dish and its presentation and of course how to handle a pressure situation. I am not bound by cuisines or ingredients anymore, what’s important to me is balancing a dish.

What was the inspiration behind your first published book, the healthy model cookbook?

People wanted to know how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to show people that healthy food is not just restricted to lettuce leaves and tomato but it can be interesting and tasty as well. There are a lot of dishes in India that serve this purpose. Actually, I got a lot of inspiration from India for my book.

You have also worked on a documentary – ‘Awesome Assam with Sarah Todd’. How was that experience? 

Incredible! Each day, I was going deeper and deeper into Assam. When we visited the Mising community (an indigenous tribal community inhabiting 11 districts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh), I was amazed to see that their kitchen was right at the entrance of the house. I mean, I would love to have a house like that too.

Overall, Assam was such a beautiful experience; its people and food were amazing.  

What are your future plans?

My future plan is to open more restaurants. If I find a space, I am definitely going to open a restaurant in Bengaluru. I would also like to look into the food products space more.

 

Indian cuisine complex to master: Ben Ungermann

 


Ben Ungermann is experimenting with Indian dishes.

MasterChef Australia 2017 finalist Ben Ungermann was in the city on Saturday for the Johnnie Walker Gourmet Experience. It was a collaboration between Conrad Bengaluru and Ben, which offered a five-course meal paired with different whiskies for each meal.

Ben’s signature dish was the Johnnie Walker infused dessert, about which he says, “I didn’t want to make just any ice cream. Since this is a drink and meal pairing session, I wanted to pair the whisky with toasted coconut with rum and raisins soaked in the alcohol.”

Though alcohol is a challenging ingredient to use when making ice creams, he used that to his advantage.

“Since I soaked the raisins in the whisky, even if you deep-freeze the ice cream, they would remain quite soft.”

It’s not the first time Ben is visiting Bengaluru. His love for Indian food keeps bringing him back for more. He shares, “I don’t like going to Indian restaurants in Australia as I find them serving only mainstream dishes. I usually run to my best friend’s place, who is an Indian, whenever I crave Indian food.”

“So coming here makes me feel like a kid in a candy shop! I think Indian cuisine is the most complex cuisine to master. There are so many layers and spices used,” he adds.

He is working on experimenting with more Indian dishes and trying to incorporate European techniques to give it a gourmet feel.

Does he also think, as some foodies do too, that Indian dishes don’t have the potential to always look good when plating? “Not at all. It’s the way people look at it. Here’s the thing — Indian cuisine was never developed or designed to be pretty. It’s really good, flavourful food. Yes, the whole gourmet aspect is becoming a trend, but that can be done too. There are techniques to do that. I am doing that,” he explains.

Ben has been a busy bee since MasterChef last year. “I knew the show was watched all over the world but I didn’t think it was this well-received in India. It’s a religion here. I feel completely at home. I honestly wasn’t prepared for the treatment,” he laughs.

After this tour, he’s heading back to Bali (where he is settled with his family now) and will be returning to India in January. He’ll be back for the World On A Plate with Marco Pierre White.

“Ever since MasterChef, I have had the chance to work in so many kitchens — from casual dining to Michelin star ones. I’ve learnt so much from everywhere. I am hoping that 2019 will be the year I get to be in India on a somewhat permanent basis. It’s too soon to say anything right now,” he signs off, leaving us with our fingers crossed.

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Celebrity chefs in Bengaluru

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