New Delhi: A few days ago, an Indian origin teenager stole everyone’s hearts with his humility, cheerful smile, and most of all, his amazing cooking talent.
On the very first episode of Junior MasterChef Australia’s third season - aired on Sunday, October 11 - Dev and his fellow contestants were given 75 minutes to cook their signature dish. Taking this as a great opportunity, 13-year-old Dev decided to take a huge risk and go big by preparing from scratch, not one or two but five dishes- three of which called for almost Michelin-star level skills.
To everyone’s amazement, the teenager prepared a feast – in the truest sense of the word – that represented his beautiful family and his heritage. It consisted of lamb Mughlai curry, smoked chicken kebab, saffron rice, cucumber raita, and coriander chutney.
The spread looked so amazing that one of the judges, Andy Allen asked Dev to run back to his bench bring his family photo so that they could be with him as they tasted his food.
An excited and nervous Dev looked on as the judges tasted his food and nodded at each other in quiet agreement. All three judges - Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong, and Andy Allen – were blown away and overwhelmed by the technique, flavour profiles, and skill of this talented teenager.
“Having your family here on the table... I'm on the verge of being emotional. I feel as if I am eating at your table at home with your parents and your brother. Honestly, I can't begin to explain to you how thankful I am that you cooked this but, I am so appreciative to have the opportunity to stand here and try your food," said Zonfrillo.
He went on to explain how perfectly Dev had cooked the lamb and infused the dish with the right flavours. About the smoked chicken, Zonfrillo expressed his delight in one word- Unbelievable!
"...the fact is it cooked by a Junior MasterChef absolutely blows my mind. Well done," added Leong.
“Dev, your family would be proud, and you should be proud because that’s blown me away. It’s blown us away so, thanks man,” said Allen.
Speaking to MasterChef after the tasting, Dev said, ”After hearing the feedback from the judges, I am so happy. I'm so proud of myself. I know my mum would be proud of me. I am so excited to see what happens.”
From the judges’ reaction, it was clear that Dev’s hands were blessed to invoke pure emotion through his food. It is their reaction that made the other contestants on the show ask Dev for a taste his food, one of whom could be heard saying, “I genuinely want to taste your food” and another saying (or you could say predicting) that his food would be among the top two dishes of the day. This clipping of the episode has since gone viral and has invoked a deep sense of pride in Indians all over the world.
Born to Indian parents from Patna, Bihar, Dev is among 14 children on the show, who were chosen from among over 2,000 applicants. The young chef lives in Melbourne, Australia with his family - Parimal (father), Shuchi (mother) and 12-year-old brother Sydh.
Asked how long he has been interested in cooking, Dev told NewsKarnataka in an email interview, ”I have been helping my parents in cooking since I was very young. My mum always encouraged me to cook. She has the vision that all kids should grow up as independent adults. I have been cooking full meals independently since I was 8.”
What is most interesting and surprising about young Dev is that this his very first cooking competition!
“Cooking is my hobby and I have been cooking for many years now. I cook food from different cuisines, both savoury and desserts. I have also been following the MasterChef series for as long as I can remember. While watching MasterChef earlier this year, I saw an advertisement for Junior MasterChef and I decided to apply. I thought it was a great opportunity for me to showcase my cooking abilities, to show the different types of cuisines that I can cook and also learn from this experience,” he explained.
Dev has learnt how to cook several different cuisines from his mother, like Indian (north and south), Thai, Italian, Mexican, and Chinese. “My mum is a fantastic cook, and everything she cooks is so flavourful,” he added.
While he finds it easy to cook different types of pasta, large crustaceans like lobsters, crabs etc. have proven to be a bit tough to cook perfectly.
When asked why he decided to take a big risk by cooking so many dishes in 75 minutes, Dev explained that he cooked those particular dishes as they represent his Indian heritage. “It has authentic Indian flavours and has different techniques. I learnt this dish from my mother, and so it represents my family as well.
“It was a bit of a risk as this dish had lots of steps, varied techniques and required many ingredients and equipment. Then it was also quite intricate to balance all the flavours to ensure one element did not overpower others. To plate up all that in 75 minutes was a real challenge, and I am happy that I could pull that off,” he added.
Another interesting thing that Dev did during the show was place pictures of his family near him on his counter.
Asked why he did this, he replied, “I carried my family photos as they mean the world to me.” He also carried with him a brass mortar-pestle which he had been using since he was probably about 4 or 5 years old.
Reacting to the judges’ request for him to bring his family to the tasting, Dev said, ”At that moment I felt like my parents and my brother were there, standing next to me. I felt like I was home.”
Dev considers the judges' emotional reaction to his food to be the “best compliment any cook can ever get”.
Regarding his fellow contestants asking him to allow them to taste his food, he said, “It was amazing to hear from other contestants that they wanted to taste my Indian feast. To me, the best food in the world is the one that brings happiness to everyone. I was so pleased that, maybe, I partly managed to achieve that food-fraternity.”
At the end of the episode, Dev’s Indian feast was chosen as one of the top two dishes. “I was humbled and ecstatic at the same time,” he reacted.
Dev hopes to win Junior MasterChef and in the future, he wants to open his own restaurant(s).
“My dream restaurant will serve delicious foods from different cuisines, cooked in most authentic ways to create original flavours. I love cooking with fresh and good-quality produce to create authentic taste. The food will be scrumptious with a beautiful presentation. Get ready for some innovative fusion too,” he said.
Apart from cooking, Dev is also interested in playing the guitar and has already passed level 4 of AMEB. He also learns tennis and has played competitive tennis in the pre-COVID times.
At home, Dev and his family cook together and all members have their own special skills and talents when it comes to making food.
“Apart from my mum who is an exceptional cook, my dad also cooks some amazing dishes including chicken biryani, Bihari chicken and pulao, palak paneer etc. My younger brother makes fantastic pumpkin soup, eggs and some lovely desserts. We love to work as a family in the kitchen, producing some real magic and good times,” he explained.
Asked about how his family feels about his interest in cooking, Dev said, “They are so proud of me. They are very happy that both my brother and I are doing well in our studies, guitar, and tennis. On top of that, I love to cook. I cook meals at least twice a week and they all love it. My family is the biggest fan of my cooking.”
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You can catch episodes of Junior MasterChef on Disney+ Hotstar Premium to track Dev and the other contestants’ progress.
Pictures include screengrabs from the show and photos provided by Channel 10.
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