Transforming India's taste buds

How MasterChef Australia transformed India’s food culture

Until about fifteen years ago, the average urban Indian had limited options when it came to dining out. This translated into limited knowledge about the intricacies of international cuisine.

Redefining India’s tastes

Today, however, it’s not unusual to hear a 9-year-old commenting on the plating and presentation of dishes, or using terms like ‘molecular gastronomy’, or perhaps complaining about their pasta not being ‘al dente’.

“When I first came here six years ago, people lacked exposure. They used to come to the restaurant and ask for spaghetti 'well-done'.”

Alex Sanchez, Head Chef at The Table and Magazine Street Kitchen in Mumbai
He agrees that the culinary landscape in India has evolved dramatically. “But now, I feel like they really speak gourmet. Nowadays, people really appreciate and really understand the amount of effort and work that’s going into the food they’re receiving,” he says.
A contestant in Masterchef Australia
There are many factors that have contributed to this cultural shift. Some of those are debatable, but most would agree that eight years (and counting) of MasterChef Australia, one of our most popular shows, has been instrumental in bringing about this change.

India has embraced MasterChef Australia

Among the best-loved reality shows in India, MasterChef Australia is a force to reckon with. As one of Star World’s flagship shows, it has a loyal and ever-growing audience.

MasterChef Australia judges: Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Dimitrios Calombaris
The show’s three judges –restaurateur and chef Gary Mehigan, chef George Calombaris, and food critic Matt Preston – have a huge Indian fan following, not least because of their own love for Indian food and culture. What is it about MasterChef Australia that appeals so much to Indian audiences? After all, there is an Indian version of the show, and numerous other versions featuring different cultures and cuisines. Why have audiences embraced this one in particular? Perhaps it’s because of the likeable judges – all three are full of encouragement and have even been known to shed tears at the exit of a promising contestant. Perhaps it’s because it’s the most diverse show of the lot, featuring contestants of French, Singaporean or Indian origin. Perhaps it’s because this diversity is reflected in the food the contestants make, blending cuisines, techniques, and styles.

The professionals who credit the show

Atul Kochhar, the first Indian chef to earn a Michelin star, calls MasterChef “hugely inspiring”. “No one could’ve imagined that a TV programme all the way from Australia could come here and alter our way of thinking,” he says. “It’s not just a programme — it’s fantastic market research from an entrepreneurial point of view.”

Star World Inspired Stories - Atul Kochhar
Kelvin Cheung
Pooja Dhingra
Kelvin Cheung, the chef behind Ellipsis, Bastian, and One Street Over in Mumbai, watches the show to stay on top of global food trends and credits it with helping change tastes in India. “The Indian general population now understand the amount of work that goes into gourmet food,” he says. Pastry chef Pooja Dhingra, who runs Mumbai’s Le 15 Patisserie, calls herself a “big MasterChef Australia fan” and says she herself often learns things from the show. “It’s changing the way the diner sees food, perceives food, experiences it,” she says. “It’s changing the way we eat.”
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