MasterChef Pankaj Bhadouria is the winner of MasterChef India Season 1 (2010). Since then, she has hosted various cookery shows on TV such as Chef Pankaj Ka Zayka (StarPlus), Kifayati Kitchen (Zee Khana Khazana), 3 Course with Pankaj (Zee Khana Khazana), Rasoi se- Pankaj Bhadouria ke Saath(ETV), Sales Ka Baazigar(ETV). She was the first MasterChef Winner worldwide to have an official MasterChef Cookbook in her name and has written two more cookery books since then; Barbie- I am a Chef and Chicken from my Kitchen (Bloomsbury Publishing).
She is also a celebrated culinary educationalist. In August 2012, she launched The Pankaj Bhadouria Culinary Academy where she shares her love for culinary art with cooking enthusiasts. Through Pankaj Bhadouria Master Classes she does many workshops and cookery demonstrations. She is also a restaurateur. Tramp Tree Cafe, her signature coffee shop, has two outlets in Lucknow. Coming up soon is Tamaara, her fine dine restaurant.
In this exclusive interview, MasterChef Pankaj talks about her foodie life, reveals her interests and even shares a recipe from one of her favorite cuisines.
What / who inspired you to become a chef?
The inspiration, I think, came from my parents who were excellent cooks themselves. Later my kids pushed me into an audition for MasterChef and the rest, of course, everyone knows!
Which chefs do you admire the most?
The grand old man of Awadhi cuisine – Chef Imtiaz Qureshi, Gordon Ramsay and Nigella Lawson would be some of my favourites!
Which are your favorite films?
While DDLJ, Satte Pe Satta and Top Gun are some of my favorites; folk music and mindless comedies are good relaxants and entertainers for me.
Do you like to travel? What are your favorite/dream travel destinations?
I love to travel! One destination that I haven’t traveled to as yet and wish to is Turkey. Greece is yet another.
Do you read? Which are your most favorite books?
I am very fond of reading and read anything I can lay my hands on. But I love reading history and mythology. My favorites are The Alchemist and the Shiva Trilogy by Amish.
Which cuisines/dishes do you love to cook the most and why?
Awadhi, because it comes from my home town, Lucknow; and Punjabi as well because I grew up feasting on it.
What kind of restaurants do you like to visit?
Be it street food or a high end restaurant, I like to eat wherever I get to try good food. I also believe that if you want to eat best of what any city has to offer, street food is the place to be.
What do you do in your free time?
I hardly get any free time. But whenever I do, I like to spend it with my kids or I cook for them. If they are not around, I like to watch television or read a book.
What do you love about Mumbai?
I love everything about Mumbai except the traffic. It is a safe city for women to travel, even in the night. Mumbaikars are good to talk to and very professional.
What inspires you – in life and in the kitchen?
The moment! Life itself is a big inspiration and the desire to live it to the fullest keeps me going!
What’s your success mantra?
Love what you are doing! This is the biggest secret in life. This is also my simple mantra for success in life
Tell us about your other ventures and food business.
Having been a teacher for 16 years of my life, teaching comes easy to me and so, after winning MasterChef, I set up the Pankaj Bhadouria Culinary Academy in Lucknow where I share my passion for cooking with those who love to learn it as well. Other than that I also have 2 cafes in my home town Lucknow.
Can you share a simple recipe of something that you love to eat / cook?
Paneer Lababdaar. All ingredients are always ready at home. Easy and fast to cook.
Paneer 100 gms, Oil 2-3 tbsp, Chopped Onions 50 gms, Cumin (Jeera) seeds ½ tsp, Tomato purees 50 gms, Red Chili powder ½ tsp, Garam masala ½ tsp, Cumin Powder ¼ tsp, Kasoori Methi ¼ tsp, White Butter 25 gms, Fresh Cream 50 gms, Salt to taste, Chopped Coriander (dhania) 2 tsp, Shredded Ginger 1 tsp, Sliced Tomato peels 1
Heat oil in a pan. Sauté cumin and chopped onion in the pan until brown. Add tomato puree and stir well. Cook over low flame for a minute. Add the cumin powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, and kasoori methi. Stir in the paneer. Cook over a low flame for 5-10 minutes. Remove from flame. Pour the butter and cream over the top. Garnish with shredded ginger, chopped coriander and sliced tomato peel. Serve hot.
From 27th to 29th October, Holachef will be serving four unique worth-craving-for recipes crafted by her. Each of these dishes appeals to the general palate but have an exclusive twist introduced by MasterChef Pankaj that brings out her culinary excellence.