While Bangladesh has always had a strong culinary heritage, Rashedul Hasan made headlines in 2017 as the first person of Bangladeshi origin to appear on the immensely renowned competition cooking show Masterchef Australia Season 09. We at TINDS had a profound conversation with Rasehdul about how his MasterChef Australia experience motivated him to pursue his passion for cooking and his future plans, which include working with Bangladeshi recipes and cuisine and getting it known to the rest of the world.
Tinds: Where were you born?
Rashedul: I was born and raised in Dhaka. I lived 30 years of my life there and moved to Australia in 2011. Although it’s been more than a decade, it still doesn’t feel long enough that I have been here. I think the perception of time is in one’s mind. I feel lucky and privileged to have experienced the vibrant life of a city as busy as Dhaka.
Tinds: What was your childhood like?
Rashedul: I studied in Government Laboratory School in Dhaka. Most of my cousins were very academically excelled, a kind of mold was created and everything was preset for me when I was growing up. There were huge expectations on my shoulders and I was able to live the life that was intended for me. I successfully graduated as an engineer from Ahsanullah University and had the opportunity to work for a renowned company of the country.
Tinds: 3 words that describe you the best?
Rashedul: Creative, Passionate & Risk-taker.
Tinds: What would you be if not a chef?
Rashedul: Cricket was my life, and my ambition was to become a national cricketer before anything else. I aspired to be a cricketer and invested a lot of time and effort into the sport. I played Premier Division Cricket and was part of the Under-19 group. My father did not approve of me choosing cricket as a career because those days it would not provide a solid source of income. However, playing professional cricket has helped me in many other areas, such as teamwork, accountability, and self-discipline, which has been extremely beneficial later in my career. I feel that simply studying would not help an individual achieve these qualities.
Tinds: What inspired you to be a chef?
Rashedul: I started when I was just about five and a half years old. I vividly remember my mother and aunties making ‘Vapa Pitha’ and it astounded me. The ingredients and the mechanism of making it intrigued me, and being as curious as I was, I was eager to learn and gave it a try. I grew up seeing my father cook as well because he had to travel because of his job. I was also very good at making tea so my mother would often let me have the opportunity to make tea for them when I was a kid.
Tinds: Why did you decide to move to Australia?
Rashedul: When we had our first kid in Bangladesh, it was difficult to manage the situation because we had little help. Both of us wanted to work and build our career but it wasn’t possible without someone having to sacrifice their career and neither of us wanted that for the other. So, that is when we decided to move abroad. I started applying for jobs and was lucky enough to have few options like Spain, Canada or Australia. Australia seemed to be the best choice at the time considering all circumstances. Australians are also passionate about cricket and it’s home for Masterchef Australia.
Tinds: How’d you get to Masterchef? What’s the story there?
Rashedul: I have been following the show since the second season and I participated in the 9th. I left my corporate job to be a part of the show. I wasn’t planning to go that year because I did not have enough knowledge of the culinary world. My friends and family encouraged me so I did. The participation form was 15 pages long, I started filling it up and left it halfway because it was so lengthy. Then Masterchef reached out to me inquiring if I was still interested to participate, basically when they did, I thought to myself, why not? That’s how I got into the show and my family, especially my wife, supported me throughout the entire journey.
Tinds: What was the entire experience like?
Rashedul: From the food POV, it was phenomenal. I wasn’t in the competition for long but the initial rounds were very exciting. Seeing different people come together in one place, getting feedback from professionals was the best part. The mystery box challenges were nerve racking. But personally, I started missing my family instantly. Also, I felt uneasy to be living with absolute strangers, we had no communication with the outside world as we had no access to any devices of any sort.
Tinds: Share with us one fond memory of yours during the show that you cherish.
Rashedul: I was the first contestant to cook in the TOP 50 phase. They brought in my son to come and give me the apron, which was a beautiful moment for me and I was overwhelmed with joy.
Tinds: How do you feel being able to represent Bangladesh on an international platform like Masterchef?
Rashedul: I feel very proud having the opportunity to represent the food I have grown up with and the culture that I belong to. I was able to bring up our tradition. People had very little knowledge about Bangali cuisine in general. Unfortunately I was not destined to go far in the competition, but I cooked about 4 or 5 dishes in the main show. I even cooked ‘Bakorkhani’. I was able to introduce people to the kind of flavors we can offer that they weren’t familiar with.
Tinds: What is your favorite dish?
Rashedul: ‘Khichuri’ is actually very close to my heart. Like every other traditional Bangali, if I see a rainy day, I’ll probably run to the kitchen and end up cooking it. My mother used to make very good ‘Bhorta’ as well, having that with steamed rice is also one of my favorites. And I would be lying if I didn’t mention piping hot Kacchi Biryani.
Tinds: Coming this far, what have you had to struggle with?
Rashedul: Struggle is a part of our everyday life. I think I initially struggled with finding time for my cooking. I worked almost 60 hours a week so it was rather difficult to find time to spend behind my passion. I felt like giving up several times and being the regular brown guy with a secure lifestyle. But I am more fascinated with growth rather than just basic survival.
Tinds: What are your plans for the future?
Rashedul: The dream is to open 3 restaurants in Bangladesh, Sydney & Thailand. I am very close to opening up the one in Sydney with my business partner where we’ll be offering South Asian Fusion Cuisine. Also, I think Thailand being the tourist hub, it would be a great opportunity to let people from all over the world have the taste of our cuisine. We’ll be able to share our food and heritage.
Tinds: What would you advise young cooks?
Rashedul: It is important to understand and prioritize your heritage and roots and where you come from. Speaking from experience, everything I have accomplished so far, I think it’s best when it comes from within, the happy place. To be a good chef, I think one needs to find the kind of food that they can connect to, it will help them transform them into the good cook that they aspire to become. It’s also important to read and watch a lot, cook a lot and be open to failures.
If you want to read more related content, kindly click now – Tinds Spotlight