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‘Indian cuisine most difficult to master’

Chef Ben Ungermann, the MasterChef Australia 2017 finalist, recently visited India for Johnie Walker Gourmet Experiences- Season 3. While speaking exclusively with IBNS correspondent Souvik Ghosh in Kolkata, Ben spoke about his life’s journey, cuisines and future plans

Take us through your journey in MasterChef Australia 2017.
I would probably say that in terms of the competition, it is definitely 40 percent mental and 60 percent cooking ability. The amount of pressure they put no wonder is immense. I suppose if one wants to be at the grand final, one will have to sort of learn to study a nerve a bit. It’s incredibly demanding but I don’t want to make it sound as if the experience was negative but it was definitely the most stressful time in my entire life.

Do you think these competitions bring out the right talent?
There are two sides to this. One is that I have seen really great cooks leave the competition early because they aren’t able to deal with the pressure. For the same token, being a chef is an incredibly stressful job. It is like a yes and no. Bit of both. Yeah.

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Tell us about your association with Gourmet Experiences.
We are really excited to work with Johnnie Walker (Johnie Walker Gourmet Experiences curated a menu with Ben that will remain open for consumers for the entire December at Serafina, Quest Mall in Kolkata) purely because I do a lot of ice creams and things like that and the depth of flavours. Having said that, it’s about teaching the greater population. Usually when one has a meal at dinner, it is paired with wine. It could very well be whiskey. That is what I am trying to show the population. I am really excited to be part of this. I do enjoy whiskey and I think it plays beautifully with every course.

I was reading an article which stated you will probably launch a store in India. Is it true and if yes, how the plannings are going?
To be honest, I can guarantee that I will be spending at least some permanent amount of time in India in 2019. I can’t say exactly what is going to be but I will definitely be having something here very soon.

Which city you are targeting to open it? Is it Bengaluru?
I can’t really tell you for sure. All I can tell that I am definitely in some serious talks at the moment.

Which part of the country you are looking for? Anything going in your mind?
To be honest I haven’t decided on a particular city or the talks didn’t happen yet to decide the location. But considering India as a massive country where the food is so diverse, I would actually have a hard time to pick a city.

How the Indian cuisines are doing internationally?
I would say right now the Indian cuisine is the hottest among all in the planet. The reason being I think the European cuisine is about the actual product or main ingredient. The Indian cuisine is completely different as it is about intense flavours, layers of spices. There is so much depth which goes into the Indian cuisine. In my opinion, the Indian cuisine is the most difficult cuisine to master and cook well.

Which cuisine is your favourite?
I have been living out of my suitcase all round the world. I can’t say I have a favourite cuisine as each of them has strong points but I am seriously considering some sort of fusion between Indian and European.

Are we going to see the fusion at your store?
All I can tell you that definitely ice-cream will be involved. And there is a chance that there might be a fusion between Europe and India.

You travel a lot due to your profession. Any memorable experience which you would like to share with us?
I got one actually. I did an event in South Africa and I fed 1400 guests with dessert for the night and I was on a big rotating stage with a big screen behind me. I was doing a lot presentation of what they deserve to be looked like. I couldn’t see the audience as it was pitch black. I remember two women coming flying up the stage, very much mobbed me with kisses and the security didn’t stop them. After they were done, the security took them off the stage. I was so embarrassed with what had just happened (smiles). Probably at that time, I realised how big the Masterchef Australia was.

(Images by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)

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