Kishwar Chowdhury, the runner up of MasterChef Australia Season 13, has given our classic Bengali meals a modern, global twist. Kishwar Chowdhury captivated the culinary world with her portrayal of Bangladeshi cuisine on the globally recognized television show. She got famous overnight by cooking traditional Bangladeshi dishes. During an exclusive interview with TINDS, Kishwar discusses her roots, motivations, dreams and goals.
TINDS: Where were you born?
TINDS: What was your childhood like?
Kishwar: I had a very typical suburban Melbourne childhood I would say. Melbourne is ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world and me and my two sisters had a wonderful time growing up here with our very big Bengali family.
TINDS: Tell us a little about your family.
Kishwar: My grandparents migrated to Australia a very long time ago. My parents met and got married here as well. I have lots of uncles and aunts from both sides of the family living here, so they’ve always been around. I probably have around 30 cousins from both sides of the family so every event and festivals have always been absolutely lively to attend.
TINDS: 3 words that describe you the best?
Kishwar: Mum, Adventurous and Chef.
TINDS: What would you be if not a chef?
Kishwar: Prior to entering the realm of food, I worked happily in the printing, packaging, and design industries. I always find myself in a lot of creative spaces. I’d probably end up doing something that involved your hands, like being a painter or doing something creative.
TINDS: How did you get interested in cooking? Who or what inspired you?
Kishwar: My cooking journey started when I was at a very young age. Food is very much at the heart of our home. Food is a very big connector within our community and it’s always been a part of my life. Food enabled me to convey my deeper opinions about the world. I consider myself really fortunate to have an audience that is interested in my point of view. I feel I can fully express myself through this medium and, as a result, have discovered a global audience that resonates with me. I can see the influence this is having on upcoming generations, including my children, and that is reason enough for me to keep doing what I do.
TINDS: What is your favorite dish?
Kishwar: We eat differently in different parts of the world. I think it’ll be hard to just name one dish. At home, I prefer having very simple, nutritious homemade food. I like street food as well, ‘chotpoti’ & ‘fuchka’ are probably on the top of my list. I like having ‘Halim’ during Ramadan. So it kinda depends on where I am.
TINDS: Which dish of yours is your kids’ favorite?
Kishwar: Both my kids love the lasagna that I prepare. My daughter loves the ‘nihari’ & ‘paya’ that I make and my daughter really loves the lasagna that I make.
TINDS: What encouraged you to participate in Masterchef?
Kishwar: The short answer is that my son, Mika, forced me to do it. We were living on a farm outside of Melbourne during the lockdown. It was a moment when, like many others, I reflected on what I really wanted to do with myself and what I would be leaving behind. It became essential to me to teach my children what my parents had spent a lifetime teaching me. I spent a significant amount of that time cooking, writing, and painting. After seeing an ad on TV, my son encouraged me to apply for Masterchef, and the rest is history. Masterchef gave me an opportunity to express who I am through my dishes and represent both the Australian and Bengali sides of my identity.
TINDS: How would you describe your journey of the competition?
Kishwar: The journey has been incredible. From being a part of a globally recognized cooking competition to being in the food industry my experience has been absolutely phenomenal working under and alongside so many talented chefs. I really love what I get to do now.
TINDS: What would you say was your biggest takeaway from the competition?
Kishwar: My biggest takeaway from Masterchef was discovering who I am as an Australian-Bengali. I believe that many of us in migrant communities around the world have our feet planted in two vessels. Masterchef allowed me to express myself through my food and showcase both the Australian and Bengali aspects of my identity.
TINDS: One memory of the competition that you’ll always remember?
Kishwar: I really loved the time we spent in Oamaru, which is in the heart of Australia. It’s a part of Australia that not many people get to experience but it’s just absolutely stunning and life changing in so many ways. I would really recommend any Australian to make the trip and visit there.
TINDS: What cuisine do you specialize in?
Kishwar: I think I specialize in Bengali cuisine shedding a light on how we Bengalis eat, who we are and our history but representing it in a very modern context. I like to create my identity on a plate.
TINDS: Is there anything about the show that you miss?
Kishwar: I definitely miss the whole production team. My friends and fellow contestants turned into a family, and it often happens when you’re a part of a show like that.
TINDS: What would you say your struggles were coming this far?
Kishwar: Life itself is a struggle. But regarding the journey I have had so far, I have had to put in long hours and it’s hard work for sure. It’s a journey that someone has to decide to take on their own. Paving a path to do what’s not been done before is more of a challenge rather than being a struggle I think. It’s hard work but I have enjoyed myself thoroughly because I loved the challenge.
TINDS: What’s next for Kishwar?
Kishwar: I plan on starting working very early in the coming year. I am scheduled to visit Bangladesh to attend the Literature Festival. I will be traveling to a few other countries in order to finish my book that will be launching in 2024. I’d like to continue to cook and create and hopefully be able to put Bengali food on the map. I love the events that I attend and I love to travel and taking my cuisines to different places and people around the world
TINDS: What would your advice be to young cooks?
Kishwar: People who are coming up into this industry I would definitely suggest them to get into a good training program, depending on which part of the world they belong to. It’s also very important to find your identity and stick to your roots. Nothing beats the experience of learning from a good mentor which really helps with acquiring more skills.
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