When Ruhi Choudhary cooked a layered spaghetti and chocolate pumpkin dessert a few months ago, never did she imagine the dishes would make her famous.
Cooking for celebrity judges on the sets of MasterChef India was just the push the 25-year-old needed. Today, the commercial pilot with Indigo airlines, is pursuing a training at Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace.
We spoke to MasterChef India season 5 contestant Ruhi Choudhary about her demanding job as a pilot, her passion for food and food venture in this interview.
How did you end up auditioning for MasterChef India?
My family has always motivated me to follow my hobbies and pursue my passions. The Indigo experience has also played a huge role in where I am today. I love to cook and experiment with food. Add to that my love for travel, which has exposed me to a variety of cuisines and culinary experiences.
Auditioning for MasterChef India wasn’t planned at all. All I knew was that they were being held close to where I was staying in Delhi. I just had a few days’ notice. Honestly, I auditioned for the show on a whim, all because of my mad love for food.
With such a demanding job, how did you manage the two?
Living a pilot’s life is not that easy. It involves odd working hours, long flights, tiring routines and lots of travelling. But, cooking has always given me a kind of peace and satisfaction unlike anything else. So, I made sure that I always found the time for it. After I got selected in the auditions, preparing for the next set of rounds was quite a task as I was just a simple home cook. There was a lot to learn and prepare along with my hectic schedule.
Indigo supported by granting me a few days off to prepare and take part in the show. I spent every minute that I got in learning about food. New cuisines, recipes, different plating techniques and everything in between. It was exhausting, but completely worth it.
What was the dish that you presented at the auditions and how were the reactions?
I made a layered spaghetti along with a chocolate pumpkin dessert. The response was mind-blowing! The judges loved my approach and I was extremely happy to see their encouragement.
How did it feel to be cooking for celebrity chefs?
It was a daunting task because you are being judged by the best in the field. But, they were so motivating and encouraging that we could just give our best without feeling the pressure.
What have you taken back from the competition?
From being a simple home cook to cooking in a professional kitchen was a huge and remarkable change. The stiff competition helped me polish my skills, knowledge, new techniques and styles of cooking.Moreover, MasterChef gave me friends for a lifetime who share the same zeal.
What was the first dish that you ever cooked in life?
I have no memory of what I first cooked, but I remember my mom always being after me to make round rotis even at a young age.
Since your job demands you to travel, what are some of your favourite destinations when it comes to food?
I fly mostly within India, and I find that the variety of food in the country is unparalleled. Every region or state has varied culinary backgrounds that is unique in its own way. However, I have lived in Coimbatore and Hyderabad and was amazed to see that south Indian cuisine is much more intricate and complex than just idli, dosa and sambhar. It takes skill and finesse to perfectly master the flavours of the cuisine and that has definitely been my most unique experience.
What is the one cuisine that you are most comfortable cooking?
How has life been post MasterChef India? Have you got any offers from the food industry?
MasterChef India made me understand food like never before. It made me realise that it’s not only an art, but also science. I have a far greater understanding of flavours, textures, combinations and ingredients now.
Currently I am on a sabbatical for three months to pursue my passion, all thanks to my employers. I am working as well as learning at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur. I spend almost 12 hours in the kitchen each day and enjoy every second of it!
After a hectic flight, which is the one dish you like to come home to?
It doesn't take an expert cook to win me over. I like coming home to any dish that’s cooked with the most important ingredient – love.
Do you have any plans to start your own food venture?
I do aspire to start a small world travel themed restaurant. Not too commercial, but just to satisfy my thirst for food. It’s a long journey to get there, but the expedition has just begun.