Winning a Master Chef Apron from Gordon Ramsay, Graham & Joe!

On June 5th 2012, which was yesterday, the second round of Master Chef Season 3 auditions was telecast on Fox and it was my big day as I was cooking  for the esteemed judges!

We invited some of our close family and friends for a Viewing Party and they all came home to cheer and support me:) I was busy the whole day prepping for my Big day! I kept getting calls from friends and family who were so supportive.I had prepared so much food so all of us could just sit down, relax and eat while we watch the auditions that evening. The second round of Master Chef auditions were to be telecast on Fox at 9pm after Hell’s Kitchen at 8pm EST! And so we all settled down in our couchwith food and drinks and then IT BEGAN!















































The second round of auditions kicked off and suddenly after the emotional shocking exit of Luca, again a very good friend and works as a restaurant manager in New York- there I was! I was shown running out with the most prized possession- the Master Chef Apron towards my husband and my daughters:) I got several calls from family and friends asking me what my Signature dish was and were all eager to know what happened inside when the Master Chef door opens? and what the judges had to say about my Signature dish?

So I definitely wanted to share my experience prior to winning that apron with all of you. So here goes- My Signature dish was a “Spicy Egg Curry with Cashew Peas Pilaf and a Pomegranate Raita”. I basically grew up with this dish which was particularly made often in a place like Kerala where I hail from in the South of India. “Raita” is basically a coolant, it cleanses one’s palette off the spices and has a cooling effect!

I had just one hour to prepare the dish and one would think thats plenty of time but with all the commotion that goes around and fellow contestants cooking, coming towards you and asking you what you are making and what you added and how you plan to plate it – time just flies. There are families of contestants who are eager to watch, some are screaming and cheering, there is so much going on that I think it was very very very hard to focus! Anyway, I managed to finish my dish in one hour and was ready to go! I cooked my rice in the pressure cooker and looked perfect and smelled very nice- filled up the room. Most of my fellow contestants wanted to taste it 🙂 so I thought that was good. Overall, I was pretty confident going in but there still was that little bit of nervousness when the door opens and you still dont know what to expect! As I enter, I wave to all the 3 judges. The judges ask me to introduce myself and I tell them that I am a stay at home mom of 2 girls who used to work as a Microbiologist full time and quit my job to pursue my passion which is Cooking! Graham asked me where I am from and I said- New Jersey and then they asked me “Where are you originally from”? and I said -India. Gordon jumps in and asks me- “Which part of India do you belong ?” and I immediately have this smile and tell him proudly- Kerala! OMG! Gordon wouldnt stop because he loves Kerala and has been there and so he starts talking to me about the place. I keep rambling back and tell them that my mom doesnt feel that cooking is very reputable because back in India, if you are interested in cooking then you are considered a cook or a maid- A BIG NO NO- Not considered a noble profession!

I also tell them that I got to the US after my marriage which was 7 years ago and that my husband worked in NY city!  I also mentioned to them that “Ours was an arranged marriage” and they are all shocked to hear that. Joe even says that its not too late to change my mind LOL! Gordon says” Congratulations on completing 7 years of successful marriage”! and I thank them for their kind words.

OK People, now is the time…..Gordon says looking at the clock your 5 minutes is almost over and my heart jumps out of my chest- I am not even thinking clearly:)

It is so hard to be in that room with the judges and talk and plate at the same time. I was planning to make my “Pomegranate Raita” in front of them.

There was hardly any time left and i was moving like this crazy person trying to toast my spices and plate up my dish. I finally somehow manage and plate my dish! First Gordon walks up to me, tastes, walks back. Next was Graham, who walks up to me and asks me what spices I toasted and if I used fresh Pomegranates? for my Raita.

Lastly, Joe walks towards me and I think al the judges could hear my heart beat -it was that loud. Joe has this intimidating way of looking at you and tasting your dish that it completely freaks me out.

Now up until this point, I had not mentioned to them that I was a Vegetarian and have never cooked or eaten meat. Growing up in India, I was raised a vegetarian and my husband is one too! So I have been a vegetarian for 32 years now. I dont eat any kind of meat or fish:) due to 2 reasons- 1) Religious and 2) because I am against killing of animals:)
I knew what was coming next – Joe Bastianich asked me the question that I was looking to avoid the most:) He said to me” I cant wait till your next challenge and see how you handle it?” Graham asked me how I would cook meat if it was given to me in a challenge and I said to him “I would cook meat but not taste it”

I had to repeat that several times and be assertive that irrespective of whatever happens, my principles do not allow me to taste meat and I wouldnt do it.

So finally Gordon says, YES or NO?everyone……

and he says For me, ITS A YES. He said it was one of the best dishes and authentic curry that he had ever tasted. This was a huge compliment for me!!

Graham said he liked the technique that I displayed in toasting the spices and adding them to the dishes! Graham said he was skeptical about the meat part but solely based on the dish- he gives me a YES!!!YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Finally it was Joe Bastianich’s turn. He also expressed his concern about my Vegetarianism and was trying to intimidate me by saying what if my hands are smothered with blood from some animal 😦

I was freaking out and all I said to them was” Please give me a chance”

Finally Joe says  the most amazing words to me- “Your plate and dish represents you, it represents finesse and class”!!!!!!

I was weeping like a baby by the time he finished his words………

I had a blast and a great time with the judges and I will cherish those few minutes with them my entire life:)































I am thrilled to be on the TOP 36! of Master Chef Season 3:)

Please support me by liking me on my Official Fan Page: and follow me on Twitter at #MC3Nandini

Stay tuned for the recipe of my currylicious Signature Dish: “Spicy Egg Curry with Cashew Peas Pilaf and  Pomegranate Raita” coming up on my blog soon!

6 Responses to “Winning a Master Chef Apron from Gordon Ramsay, Graham & Joe!”
  1. Tim says:

    That’s really interesting. As a butcher, I work with some people who are vegetarian. It can be tricky to recommend meat to customers, but they can describe the flavor well. They know how to pair seasonings with their meat. They can cook it well. It’s a really cool process. I hope you got a chance to shine! The description of your dish sounds delicious!

  2. We, your parents are really proud of you.I am sure you miss your grandparents . With their blessings and prayers you have reached the heights. Really miss them. But i am sure they will be watching from above and enjoyiing and blessing you , Vikram and children ——– . Even your periamama always used to tell that her niece would become a great model. now that is also fulfilled through recent MASTERCHEF show.

    • Currylicious says:

      I think making you and appa(my parents), our family and friends here and in India proud of what I am doing is my biggest accomplishment and Master Chef trophy! that is exactly what I wanted to achieve through this journey anyways. Thanks for always being there for me:) I will always love you ……..

      • Rajan Mama, Mami says:

        Ninna, your outsanding performance and your essaying the proceedings did make us feel that we were ourselves a part of the exciting MasterChef journey that you went through. Prayers are the best that we could do and hence we prayed from the bottom of our hearts for you as we have been all these years. Having known you from your childhood days, we must admit and adore you for having come a long way. It is also heartening to note that you have explored and enjoyed every bit of the 7 happy married years. Wish you and your lovely family many, many more such wonderful moments in times to come.

        You owe a lot in thanksgiving to the Lord for blessing you with such a loving, caring and understanding hubby. Both of you in turn owe the Lord a big “thank you” for the two cuties – Ananya and Aksha!!! It was a delight to chat with Anukutty on Skype when you were in Japan. Tons of love and blessings to you all. God Blessl!!!!

  3. Manjula Karunakaran says:

    Hey Nandini!!! Congratulations and wishing you the very best for the contest ahead!!! So very proud of you !!!

  4. Gman says:

    I love the drama of Gordon Ramsey’s shows so much that I had to look for some blogs about the show, and I found yours. I must say I never imagined I would find the personal story of a contestant, but I was so delighted to find it and read how you have so many adoring friends and family. Last season one of my Dish co-workers told me about MasterChef, and now it will be even more exciting to see YOU on the next episode. We love that we can fit in several programs in one evening now that we watch commercial free, (automatically skipped) with the Auto Hop feature on our PrimeTime Anytime recordings. We like watching Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef back to back the next evening now, which helps me feel like I’m getting more value out of my service.

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