From manning a skid-steer loader to winning a popular food show, MasterChef Australia winner Brent Owens' journey has been chequered and inspiring. The young Australian chef, who boasts equally of good looks, great culinary skills and a witty sense of humour, devoured some amazing street food on his recent visit to Delhi, Mumbai and Agra.
"I enjoyed the cultural side of Delhi. I tasted the famous north Indian cuisine and really loved it. I'd want to come back again and experience more of Indian food," he says. And one thing that has caught his fancy is the dosa. "I want to create a dessert around dosa. I'm working on it and playing around the idea. It's almost like crepe. It makes sense to create a dosa-meets-dessert dish," says the 25-year-old.
While Brent gorged on Indian street delicacies, his friends back home were worried that he might fall sick. "I loved the pani-puri with little sweet yoghurt on the top. I also enjoyed jalebi, sev-puri, pao-bhaji and vada-pao. People kept on asking me if I fell sick but I was just fine," says Owens.
The chef is happy that he also learned about the amazing diversity of Indian food. "I did not know that authentic Indian food is so much fun. I love the diversity of the cuisine and so many different flavours. In Australia, we think Indian food is all about rice and curry. This visit has changed my notion. It's great to learn there's so much more to it," he says.
Recipe by Brent Owen
Winning the coveted MasterChef Australia title was a dream come true for the young chef. He won the hearts of many with his warm, charming personality and down-to earth-attitude, as he beat 23 contestants to emerge as the underdog champion. On his recent visit to the Capital, he spoke to us about his modern cooking style, his take on ban on ingredients and food trends.
What was it like to participate in the show?
It's been a lot of fun. It's like you are put in a washing machine and you are suddenly in different directions. A lot of things go on at once in the show. It's exciting. You are living your dream. I fell in love with food when I was 19. To have a career is the food industry is a dream come true. I'm doing what I love and it's great.
Tell us about your cooking style.
My style is modern Australian. I adapt techniques and ingredients from cuisines around the world and give a little twist to them. I modernise and recreate classical food.
What's your take on banning certain ingredients in some states or countries? Beef is banned in Maharashtra while foie gras is banned in several countries.
There is nothing wrong if the ban is issued to safeguard religious sentiments. In a way, it makes a chef hone his knowledge and work harder to make the most of the other available ingredients. If you think about a vegetarian meal, general perspective will be that it's going to be bland. You will think salad and a few veggies and that's it. If there's a ban on certain proteins such as beef, you need to be better at vegetarian food. It's a great avenue to broaden the vegetarian market. In general, any sort of ban or a trend is an evolution of food. If it doesn't work, then it will eventually change. If it does work, it's great. You will have more things to try, more things to experiment with.
Any interesting food trend that you think will be big this year?
Food trends change so rapidly. I think that people are trying to experiment with a lot of cuisines. Fusion cuisine will surely be big. Instead of having just one style, restaurants will create a mélange of different styles of cuisines. A lot of global restros will also start popping up everywhere, and the trend would be big in India.