‘He’s Absolutely Fantastic’: Kishwar Has Been Training Under An Iconic Chef Since ‘MasterChef’

Kishwar Chowdhury

Kishwar Chowdhury has placed third in MasterChef Australia 2021, winning $20,000 to kickstart her food dreams. Chowdury placed behind Pete Campbell and winner Justin Narayan after a five and a half hour pressure test set by Quay restaurant’s Peter Gilmore.

The mum-of-two used her time in the competition to not only win over the judges but to bring her love for Bengali food to Australian audiences and to her fellow contestants too. For Chowdhury, the cuisine is wrought with meaning and she often produced dishes that had hundreds of years of history behind them.

Following the MasterChef Austalia grand finale, The Latch chatted to Chowdhury about her time on the cooking show, what it meant to her to share her heritage with the masses and what she has cooking up now.

The Latch: What was it like watching that final, intense pressure test back and re-living it? Did you find yourself analysing your cook and thinking about what you would have done differently? 

Kishwar Chowdhury: I thought it was a fantastic episode. It was obviously compressed down, but it was a really long day in the kitchen, just such a long day. One thing I noticed was just how exhausted we looked when we had the final tastings, it was very late into the night and you could just see it on our faces.

It was quite gruelling, and such an epic finale, and it really put us under immense pressure. But also, just knowing that you could do that both physically and mentally… it was challenging and really rewarding as well. As you could see, Pete, Justin and I were proud of ourselves.

TL: What did it mean to you to be part of a diverse top three? What do you think it means to viewers? 

KC: I think MasterChef Australia, in particular, has always been very diverse.

You probably can’t think back to a final where or just even a top 10 or where it hasn’t been about diversity because the food that is good is diverse food.

I don’t think they’re trying to even, you know, go out of their way to make some sort of political statement or take a stance, it’s just that when it comes down to something like food, Australia loves multiculturalism. Yes, I cook Bengali food, but when it comes to what I eat, it’s everything. I mean, I had a pho last night!

So that’s what it is in our hearts and in our homes. I think when it comes to food, we do want to see food from regions from all over the world. But it’s still Australian, and we do very much in our hearts recognise and embrace the fact that international cuisines or multicultural cuisine are part of Australia’s food tapestry.

TL: You brought so much passion and history into that kitchen, how did it feel knowing you were sharing such meaningful parts of yourself with the country? 

KC: Oh gosh, sharing really meaningful parts of myself, even with the entire room and the judges, and the contestants and crew, it makes you very vulnerable. Because it is something that is a part of you.

But also, there was that overwhelming factor that it’s never been seen on television and it’s not something that I saw growing up and I wish I had. It also meant that by me doing this and putting myself out there, it so vulnerable and also it is uncomfortable.

But in the back of my mind, I thought, ‘Hey, my kids are seeing this. And then my children’s friends are seeing this,’ and I just knew how much it will change the way they think about their food or their culture or their heritage and the way they’re used to seeing themselves.

TL: What has been the response? What kind of messages have you received from people about how you affected them? 

KC: Post-MasterChef, the second leg of this journey is sort of sharing your very intimate journey in from that room with the rest of the world. That, again, makes you even more vulnerable and you’re opening yourself up even more.

But the impact that it’s created, and just the love and the letters and the stories that people have been writing to me, I receive thousands of messages from all over the world, where people feel like finally that they’ve been seen.

TL: Which day or cook stands out to you the most as a highlight in the competition? 

KC: The day that really represented me and I’m really proud of is the semi-final. Because if I were to put myself on a plate, you know, as a person in time and really represent myself, it was that three-course menu.

It was incorporating Australian native ingredients, but then going back to an extremely ancient heritage dish life and the Nihari that was served in the Mughal kitchen. And then to flip that around and do my on my dessert with betel leaf, I was very, very proud of that menu. And I think it really represented me.

TL: You’ve spoken about wanting to publish a cookbook of the recipes that mean the most to you so they won’t be lost. How is that project going? 

KC: It’s like writing a diary almost, just not thinking of recipes, but it’s a lot of reading and researching and saying, ‘yes, this is something that belongs in my book.’

And so it’s a slow process, but it’s also something that I don’t want to rush. Because it means a lot to me and I want to do it perfectly.

TL: What does life post-MasterChef look like? What will we see you do next? 

KC: Post MasterChef I’ve been involved in a few projects. One that is close to my heart is working with the Australian Centre for Asylum Seekers and Refugees. I worked with them on World Refugee Day for their telethon and there’s a feast for freedom that comes around in February every year. It’s a charity that is very close to my heart.

I’ve also gotten myself back into a kitchen and been training under Chef Yomo (Masahiko Yomoda). You might remember from the bento box challenge.

Chef Yomo is absolutely fantastic. He’s a Michelin star chef who has his restaurant Ishizuka, and he creates this incredible fine dining: French/Japanese Kaiseki degustation menus. Training under him has meant I’ve learned so much even after leaving the show.

And something exciting that I’m doing is on the 29th of July, I’ll be releasing my own menus from Adam D’Sylva’s Tonka. I’ll be in Tonka from the 29th onwards, and I’ll be releasing my family’s menu and a few dishes that I’ve done on the show, but then a few of my original concept dishes as well. Which is really exciting.

Follow Kishwar on Instagram @kishwar_chowdhury

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