This year, Panisha Patel takes on MasterChef cooking and competing through a variety of heats, quarter finals and knockouts until the ultimate winner is crowned. Gregg Wallace and John Torode judge the dishes being served – with all the action, tantrums, successes and burning disasters caught on camera. The winner goes away with a trophy and the prestige of being The MasterChef of the series.
Panisha is a children’s nurse from Gloucestershire but now living in Manchester. Panisha’s family are originally from Gujarat in India and moved to Kenya before moving to the UK in 1970’s. She grew up in Gloucestershire and went on to study physiology at University of Bristol. With her interest for medicine and love of helping and caring for people Panisha moved to Manchester to study her degree in children’s nursing.
“I fell in love with the city and have lived her since; working in children’s A&E and children wards in hospitals.”
We spoke to Chef Panisha to find out more about her experience on the BBC1 show…
What was the reason in taking part in Masterchef?
I love cooking for others, I definitely make more of an effort when I know I’m cooking for other people! My passions for cooking for others really kicked off at University when our kitchen was too small for all of us to cook at the same time. Being able to cook for my housemates was so much fun and I couldn’t wait to come up with new recipes each week. I’ve watched MasterChef for so many years and always wondered whether I was good enough to apply. I applied a few years ago and was asked to be on the televised rounds of the show but was gutted when I couldn’t take part because of University work commitments. A couple of years later and my love for cooking and food definitely hadn’t gone, if anything it had really grown. I was still thinking about different recipes and meal planning on my night shifts. I realised cooking wasn’t just a phase for me it had become a full love of mine. I promised myself that I would apply again and finally decided it was the right time, good job I did apply again!
Is there a way to handle the criticism from the judges?
This was the part I always knew was going to be hard about being on the show. Your friends and family are generally complimentary about your food. Having strangers taste your food always opens up the flood gates for criticism, let alone MasterChef judges! It’s hard to hear criticism about something you’ve put your heart and soul into. It’s always worse when you produce your plate and know there are parts that you could have done better, and then to hear the judges confirm those criticisms. But it massively helps to remember that they’re not saying these things to be mean, they just want you to do better. I tried to take their criticism and learn from it to hopefully produce better quality cooking.
What is the atmosphere like in the kitchen cooking alongside other chefs?
At the beginning when you get into the kitchen for the first time and you don’t know each other you can feel the nerves and adrenaline around the room. In a way that helps because it’s such a unique experience and you know you’re all in the same boat so you form this amazing bond really quickly. Those moments when we’re congratulating each other are genuine. You don’t want anyone to have a bad day in that kitchen and when you have a bad day its amazing having those people there as a support network. Id like to say the nervous atmosphere eventually goes away, but I felt each challenge brought forward more nerves and adrenaline!
What is your approach to the imagination and creation of your dishes?
I love trying food from around the world and love that some types of food can stretch from continent to continent and still be served so differently. Lk at my pasta and noddles! Same concept but so different in their final dishes and equally as yummy. I think my creativity comes from seeing those fundamental ingredients that are used all over the world, and using them to make up dishes that combine different cuisines.
What is your cooking style and what can people expect from your food?
I know a lot of people hate the term ‘fusion’ maybe ‘east meets wests’ is better?? I think my style of cooking reflects my upbringing. My parents wanted my sister and I to eat traditional Indian food but also made sure we ate food from other parts of the world. The UK is so amazing with all the different cultures around us and the variety of produce and food that we can get. I try to mix cuisines and styles to make my own style. From travelling I am a big fan of street food, occasionally I prefer finding. I feel my style reflects that as my dishes aren’t typically fine dining (spiced sausage roll comes to mind!) But hopefully my food will show that tastes goes a long way.
What was your greatest accomplishment during your time on MasterChef?
My greatest accomplishment so far has to be cooking for the three previous MasterChef winners! I was so excited to find out that we were cooking for Ping Coombes, Ale Jorge and Thomasina Miers. Those three ladies are true inspirations to have come from this competition, and to serve them my own food was a dream come true. Each of them has inspired me with their take on mine cuisines. And then to have Ping Coombes ask me for my sausage roll recipe was unbelievable!
Has there been downsides?
The feeling of guilt and sadness when people are eliminated from the competition. Everyone who appears on the show is incredible. You make true friendships and learn from each other. The competition is an amazing opportunity and everyone is so supportive of each other, it really hits you when someone has a bad day in that kitchen.
Would there be anything you would change and would you recommend to a friend?
I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened so far. Even when you get bad criticism it’s an opportunity for improvement. I loved the MasterChef experience with all the good parts and bad parts. My main recommendation for anyone wanting to do this is to enjoy yourself! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and you come away with some incredible friends and experiences!