Aalo Gobhi in MasterChef Australia. Celebrated chef Sarah Todd had masterfully put her love for Indian food on display back in 2014 on the stage of one of the world’s biggest cooking shows. Shortly after Season 6, she moved to India from Australia, co-owning and starting her restaurant, Antares, in Goa, and later launching The Wine Rack in Mumbai.
Since then, she has traversed a long journey when it comes to her connection with India, both literally and metaphorically. We spoke to her recently, after her second stint on MasterChef with MasterChef Australia: Fans & Favourites.
What made you look towards Indian cuisine on MasterChef, once again?
When I first appeared on MasterChef Australia in 2014, I thought I had an understanding of Indian cuisine. It wasn’t until I travelled extensively around India that I realised how diverse the cuisine was from state to state and even village to village. When I was given the opportunity to return to MasterChef this year, I felt it was the perfect platform to take that knowledge and share it with Australian viewers. My style has evolved over the last eight years and is Indo-Australian using French techniques.
You moved to India after your last MasterChef stint and opened up restaurants here. How was the experience?
My experience opening restaurants in India was life-changing. I gained so much knowledge and insight into the food industry. Restaurants really are my ultimate love when it comes to cooking. I love the people, culture, food, and everything about India. I have been to approximately 20 states in India, so there are hundreds of travel tales that inspired me. Even when I created a modern dish, elements of that were inspired by my travels across India.
How did you plan to improve your performance at this edition of MasterChef?
My cooking style naturally evolved throughout the competition based on the feedback from the judges. I navigated towards dishes with Indian flavours using French techniques. My butter-poached lobster with Indian flavours earned high praise from the judges; they said it was 3 Michelin Star worthy. Going through the competition, I naturally started to fall into that style of cooking, and it has really ignited my love of fine dining food. I would really like to go down that path.
From Aalo Gobhi to Rajasthani Laal maas, you seem to have a penchant for Indian cuisine. What is it that resonates with you?
The nostalgia behind dishes like Aalo Gobhi and Laal Maas makes them so special. I have such fond memories of cooking these dishes. I believe Indian Cuisine is one of the most diverse, and I enjoy exploring this vast country and learning as much as I can.
You have had such an incredible journey as a chef. Isn’t it daunting to compete and be judged again? Does that make you nervous?
Terribly! It was my biggest concern going into the competition. Back then, I didn’t have much to lose. I went into the competition as a model and came out as an aspiring chef. I achieved a lot outside the MasterChef Kitchen and it was daunting to be judged again on such a personal level. There was a risk that it could be detrimental to my career. However, my motto is ‘magic happens outside your comfort zone’ which is how you grow. I really am so thankful that I pushed myself.
Does your son share your love for cooking?
Phoenix does love to cook but he has a particular palette. There are a few dishes he loves to cook. He makes perfect poached eggs which he often serves on toast with avocado for me for breakfast. His repertoire is expanding.
Indian food seems to have been making its mark in Australia. Why do you think that is?
Melbourne has a vibrant Indian community with Indian-born migrants making up 3 percent of Melbourne’s total population. It is only natural that Indian cuisine is making its mark with diners getting a taste of regional Indian cuisine. MasterChef also plays a role, with contestants showcasing Indian cuisine.
One Indian dish you’d love to recreate and serve in Australia
I would love to recreate the dish that earned me the 3 Michelin Star comment in MasterChef. It is my butter-poached lobster with flavours of India: broth, curry leaf aioli and fried curry leaves. That was the dish that cemented my cooking style going forward.