MasterChef judges praised Sandeep Pandit for his ‘amazing presence’

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After spending almost two months in the MasterChef kitchen, Indian hopeful Sandeep Pandit was out of the competition on Thursday night. It was a week of sweet dish round and the contestants had to prepare sweet dishes without the use of artificial sugar. Sandeep made kheer (traditional Indian rice pudding) which the judges found was cardamom and saffron heavy and not sweet enough. It was a tough tie between Sandeep and Tatti but in the end, it was time for Sandeep to say goodbye to the MasterChef kitchen. The judges praised Sandeep for presenting the best of Indian food and for his “amazing presence in the kitchen”. An emotional Sandeep said he was proud of what he presented and walked out of the doors taking back with him plenty of memories and lessons. With a newer resolve to continue his food journey. For the moment, the IT professional plans to go back to work to wrap up a few commitments and start a restaurant soon. In an exclusive, Sandeep talks to The Indian Weekly all about his MasterChef journey, right after his eviction.

Did you think you would go out in the sweet dish round?
I came to this competition prepared that I would go out any time. At the same time, I never cooked anything thinking that it would be my last cook. It is just unfortunate that there were some technical errors and issues but I am just happy with what I have put up. I definitely wanted to be in top ten but Season 11, top 11 has a nice ring to it.
Also, I had been unwell all of this week. My back problem crippled me for at least two cooks. I could not take part in the team challenge at Hanging Rock and even on the day when I had to give up my immunity pin, I was not in a good enough shape to stand enough for a long time. MasterChef is both a mental and physical game, cooking in pain did me in a bit as it made me lose some focus which led to some errors which I would not otherwise do on regular days.

What has the experience been like?
It has been truly divine, it was an incredible experience. For me someone like me who comes from a Kashmiri migrant family escaping from your home in a truck to be applauded by all of Australia is an exceptionally beautiful experience.

How will you be handling your popularity now?
I am not sure I am that popular. I guess people in Melbourne know me a bit by now and thanks for being the first people to interview me prior to the show as well. It’s not the popularity but being known by people is an honour and I hope whatever little I have been able to showcase in terms of the skills in MasterChef, people will start acknowledging Indian food as complex and beautiful and as diverse and technical as French cooking is.

How did you feel being on camera for such a great show?
I am actually quite camera shy to tell you the truth. In real life too, I prefer to take someone else’s photo than mine. Initially I found it a bit hard to cook in front of the camera. But the whole MasterChef crew is very professional; it is one of the most professional organisations that I have worked with. They make you very comfortable, they give you your space, and it is a very happy place. For instance, I was in deep pain and sometimes could not stand for long and they could have made it into a dramatic one but they were incredibly respectful and that’s how they are in reality too. You get used to the whole concept of being in front of the camera.

For many Indians watching you, what would be your message to them if they want to take part in the next season of MasterChef?
For my Indian brothers and sisters, I would say please be proud of the culture and cuisines you represent. If you have a dream, if you love food, love cooking don’t ever think that you cannot apply. I will be happy to help you in whatever way I can.

What next? Are you going back to your IT career or doing something related to food?
For the short term, I am going back to my work. There are some professional commitments that I have to take care of, I had to take a break from my professional life to realise this dream. But I am hoping to start my own restaurant which serves Indian barbecue food cooked on coal like how you have at Karim’s in Old Delhi. It will also serve biryani. I am also hoping to commercialise my garam masala, it is one of the most unique spice blends that we have. It is very similar to the Kashmiri garam masala. And thirdly I am working on my website, so these are some of the things lined up for me.

Who do you think will take home the MasterChef crown?
Everyone in top ten is incredible. But I am a little biased towards towards two people: Tati Carlin and Tessa Boersma. Tati was like an elder sister that I never had, but the professional cook in me says Tessa has a very good chance, I call her the flavour queen and she is an exceptional cook.

Did you think you would go out in the sweet dish round?
I came to this competition prepared that I would go out any time. At the same time, I never cooked anything thinking that it would be my last cook. It is just unfortunate that there were some technical errors and issues but I am just happy with what I have put up. I definitely wanted to be in top ten but Season 11, top 11 has a nice ring to it.
Also, I had been unwell all of this week. My back problem crippled me for at least two cooks. I could not take part in the team challenge at Hanging Rock and even on the day when I had to give up my immunity pin, I was not in a good enough shape to stand enough for a long time. MasterChef is both a mental and physical game, cooking in pain did me in a bit as it made me lose some focus which led to some errors which I would not otherwise do on regular days.

Who do you think will take home the MasterChef crown?
Everyone in top ten is incredible. But I am a little biased towards towards two people: Tati Carlin and Tessa Boersma. Tati was like an elder sister that I never had, but the professional cook in me says Tessa has a very good chance, I call her the flavour queen and she is an exceptional cook.

Anything else you wanted to add?
I would like to thank all the readers of The Indian Weekly and G’day India, I have seen the comments on Facebook. So thank you for following my journey from day one and I would absolutely love it if people could follow me on Instagram and see how I go from here.

 (As told to Indira Laisram)