At 21, most people are still figuring out what to do with their lives. Ahmedabad-born Nikita Gandhi, who currently lives in Abu Dhabi, doesn't seem to be sharing that problem.
On Sunday, Gandhi won the coveted golden chef coat and Rs 1 crore as the judges of MasterChef India 4 — Sanjeev Kapoor, Vikas Khanna and Ranveer Brar — declared her the winner of this season. She beat Mumbai's Neha Shah and Hyderabad's Bhakti Arora in the vegetarian-only cooking reality TV show. She is the youngest winner of any edition of MasterChef, barring the MasterChef Junior variant.
Emotional after being declared the winner, Gandhi responded with a show of patriotism. "These four to five months here (in India) thanks to 'MasterChef...' have made me realise that India is truly my home," she told IANS.
She was interviewed by India.com ahead of the finale. Here are a few things we gleaned about her through that interview:
1. Her earliest memory of cooking was "disastrous"
Her first attempt at baking — chocolate cupcakes — turned out less than well. She got confused between the terms 'teaspoon' and 'tablespoon' and ended up adding the latter amount of baking soda to her preparation. She said, however, that instead of giving up, she got inspired to get better through trial and error.
2. She credits her signature dish — 'Passionfruit Amrakhand With White Chocolate Pistachio Ghari' — to her experience of having lived in multiple cities across the world
Aside from being born in Ahmedabad and living in Abu Dhabi, Gandhi spent four years in the United States, earning a degree in business from the University of Baltimore. This, apart from exposure to MasterChef, have given her an understanding of how to play with flavours in food.
Her 'Passionfruit Amrakhand With White Chocolate Pistachio Ghari', now on the menu at Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor (a chain of fine-dine, contemporary Indian cuisine restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi), came about as a result of an attempt to "modernize the dish only till a point where the basic flavours weren't taken away".
3. She has never been able to make rasgullas
In her interview, she states that the best dish she makes are her 'Rose and Raspberry Éclairs', while her worst are Bengali rasgullas, which she has never been able to perfect "despite several attempts".
4. She has these things to say about her MasterChef judges
According to her, [Sanjeev] Kapoor is not as scary as he appears on screen and is a very good dancer and singer. For [Ranveer] Brar, whose photography she admires, she says that he loves "giving advice" and correcting mistakes, "even from the past".
As for [Vikas] Khanna, she thinks that he is a very good singer and states that his favourite song is 'Main Tenu Samjhawan Ki' (by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, also featured in the movie 'Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania'). Aside from his sense of humour, she is also amused by his tendency to flatter everyone with phrases like "Brilliant! Beautiful! Amazing! Fantastic! I love the idea!’.
5. She has a blog called The Veggie Fix, which features interesting experiments with vegetarian food
Aside from gaining real-world experience in a professional kitchen, Gandhi says that she would "ideally" like to study the art of molecular gastronomy. A look at her blog, The Veggie Fix, confirms her love for experimentation with different kinds of cuisines as well as a love for differing textures in food.