Bhubaneswar: While Odisha keeps finding its way through all the obstacles to shine out and rise as a rich, vibrant state, quite often our denizens make it possible through individual efforts. Two of our dearest members from FoodFindo, Abinas Nayak and Smrutishree, have found a place among the top 15 of world’s most popular reality TV cooking show – MasterChef India.

FoodFindo caught up with them amid their busy schedule of shoots. Here’s an excerpt:

I will start with the cliché. How does it feel?

Abinas: Incredible. It was extremely difficult to get here. We had several rounds till we reached this television round. I gave auditions in Hyderabad, and twice in Mumbai. It was exhausting but thrilling!

Smrutishree: I agree. In fact, Abinas had told me about the show and that I must participate. I had a round in Bhubaneswar, then in Kolkata, and twice in Mumbai. I had not expected to get this far, so every achievement seemed like a miracle. Besides, being a huge Vikas Khanna fan, I was genuinely only looking forward to a chance of meeting and greeting him personally.

What were the dishes you prepared?

Abinas: The first dish I prepared was a dessert, and next was a khira santula, the third I prepared was chicken besara. It was telecast so everyone knows the entire process that went into it. The judges loved my dish! I’ve never been happier. The fact that Odia cuisine made them gasp in wonder and pleasure, was enthralling.

Smrutishree: I first prepared Surprise pockets, with five different fillings and sauces. Second one was a dessert, and third was again a dessert. It was a ginger based dish. It’s interesting how I have never liked desserts as much but this show got me to cook only desserts! The dish I presented to the judges was special- Almond vanilla mulberry cake that my dad would make for me as a kid. I named it “Chai pe Charcha”. Chef Vikas loved it! That’s all I really wished for.

Tell us about your favourite moments from the show?

Abinas: Among all the beautiful moments I’ve had during the show, the one that touched my heart and was overwhelming, was when ched Vikas said “Jai Odisha” after tasting Chicken Besara! I felt so special for having brought Odia cuisine to the national television. Also, when my dad lifted me up after I received the apron!

Smrutishree: For me, the fact that I cooked my dad’s dish in front him for the person who I regard the most in life, Chef Vikas, was really special. Two important men of my life were right in front of me. I also got to sing for Vikas, got his autograph, danced with him. I was on cloud nine!

How has FoodFindo been a part of your journey during the show?

Abinas: FoodFindo played an important role in my journey. I did my first Odia pop up with FoodFindo. They helped create and curate the event for me. They always gave the right kind of feedback. The constructive feedback and inspiration from other bloggers helped me grow substantially. FoodFindo is a family that shaped me into a better chef. I am forever grateful to the environment.

Smrutishree: I had joined FoodFindo to connect to people, mainly. With time, it became a platform that kept encouraging me, gave me insights, also made me more confident about my culinary skills. A lot of people got to know me as well, which was amazing. I could be shameless about my love for food! I learnt a lot of new things, I also got a chance to correct and share my knowledge. It played a crucial role.

Who has been your culinary inspiration?

Abinas: I follow a lot of people. There’s Loki who inspires me to produce food sustainably; chef Thomas who works for different regional cuisine is really inspiring; chef Vineet Bhatia, he opened so many restaurants but is so humble. Apart from them, I am always inspired by the good intentions of everyone, who wish to present food not just as food but as an emotion to connect to people.

Smrutishree: For me, my parents have been the biggest inspiration when it comes to food. I have always followed their footsteps, and as a kid, I remember we never bought cakes or anything outside. My dad would prepare it for me. Apart from them, my Nani is someone I earnestly follow. And, of course, the most amazing Vikas Khanna!

FoodFindo wishes them all the very best! Kudos to Abinas and Smrutishree, MasterChef, and Odia cuisine!

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