Kochi: Millions of foodies from across the globe lap up every episode of ‘MasterChef Australia’, one of the world's most popular competitive cooking game shows. So, it was a moment of pride for Saji P. Alex, a chef at the Kochi Marriot Hotel at the Lulu International Shopping Mall in Edappally, when he won the same jurors’ accolades by preparing Kerala's traditional food items at an international event held in Bengaluru recently.
He impressed the MasterChef Australia judges and renowned chefs Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris, with his superb recipes and simple cooking techniques. When the stars in the culinary world showered praises on Saji through their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, there was a sudden spurt in demand for the ‘peculiar’ dishes made by him such as Idiyappam and Puttu! In no time, their pages got flooded with questions seeking personal details of the chef who became a household name overnight.
It all started when the three-member chefs and hosts of MasterChef Australia landed in India as part of the international food festival, ‘World on a Plate’. The programme was hosted by JW Marriot Hotel in Bengaluru.
The hotel management and the chefs wanted to do something unique to take three of the world's most popular culinary giants on an unforgettable gastronomic journey.
It was JW Marriot’s executive chef Anthony En Yuan Huang’s idea to dish out typical Kerala breakfast to the three gourmet experts. Soon, Saji found himself travelling to Bengaluru. He prepared traditional Kerala dishes such as two types of Puttu – Ari Puttu and Chemba Puttu – besides Palappam, Kallappam, and Idiyappam. Curries included fish molee, mutton stew, vegetable stew, beef piralan, chicken curry with rich coconut milk, and egg roast. ‘Meen pattichathu’ (Spicy fish curry with thick gravy) completed the sumptuous spread.
Putting aside spoons and forks, the masters opted to eat with their hands. They took their time and savoured each bite. The three tried out the ‘meen pattichathu’ and egg roast and gave them a thumbs up.
“After finishing breakfast, they came to me and asked for recipes. They were curious to know about the combinations, ingredients and cooking methods,” Saji said.
Saji and his mouthwatering recipes instantly became the talk of the culinary world after Matt, Gary and George shared their experiences on social network sites.
Making an impression on these three who discuss and evaluate every recipe and dish presented at MasterChef Australia thread-bare was not an easy task. So, it is indeed a great achievement for Saji as he could satiate their palates with simple but authentic Kerala cuisine.
“I think I was able to get everything—the ingredients, flavours, aroma and the taste—just right,” he says with a disarming smile.
After reaching Australia, the master chefs contacted Saji to know more about the ingredients of the other dishes served to them in Bengaluru.
Saji, native of Pala, is the Chef de Cuisine at the Kochi Marriot’s Kerala specialty restaurant, Cassava.