MasterChef Australia has crowned Justin Narayan as its 2021 winner, ending a dream run for Kishwar Chowdhury, who has consistently championed her Bangladeshi roots throughout her appearance.
At the end of its Season 13 grand finale, broadcast on July 13 in Australia, Narayan finally took home the title and the $250,000 prize money, beating out Pete Campbell and Kishwar Chowdhury, who won $30,000 and $20,000 respectively.
The winner scored 125 points in the concluding round to win the 2021 title. Pete Campbell scored 124 points and Kishwar Chowdhury had 114 points.
Humble ‘Panta Bhat’ on MasterChef platters her finale dish
Kishwar stunned everyone while presenting her final dish in the competition, this time by serving the humble and traditional ‘Panta Bhat’ and ‘Aloo Bhorta’ in the grand finale episode of the celebrated show while fighting for the top position of MasterChef Australia Season 13 alongside Justin Narayan and Pete Campbell. Kishwar presented the most iconic Bangladeshi dish ‘Panta Bhat’ (smoked rice water) with ‘Aloo Bhorta’ (potato smashed) and sardine before the judges as her ultimate dish in the competition.
Sharing her cuisine selection, the 38-year-old wrote on her official page on Monday: “Smoked Rice Water -- This is my final dish for MasterChef 2021. The extraordinary chefs and mentors I met on my journey here, inspired me to research ancient techniques and reimagine dishes that have been passed down from generation to generation. Culinary genius @thehestonblumenthalteam had me thinking about the exciting concept of ‘Smoked Water’. Meeting @scottpickettchef and finding out he has Charcoal Smoked Water on his menu, gave me the confidence to reach into my repertoire of dishes that people from my culture only serve at home. So here is my last and final homage to a dish that deserves this stage. As Jock Zonfrillo put it, this food belongs here.”
Thanking the judges, she added, “It’s been an honour to be able to bring this food to the MasterChef Australia platform. Thank you @fooderati @andyallencooks and Jock Zonfrillo] for teaching me to unapologetically do so.” The official Facebook page of MasterChef Australia also shared the presentation of Kishwar and her quintessential Bengali dishes before the judges, where she said, “This is a dish that you wouldn’t see in a restaurant anywhere. So it is scary but extremely rewarding to present this as a finale dish.” Judges of Masterchef Australia Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen were extremely impressed with the dish, deeming it a “powerful dish with history and flavour”. Netizens have also shared this amazing presentation of Kishwar all over social media platforms.
The woman who brought traditional Bangladeshi dishes and won hearts in MasterChef Australia
MasterChef is one of the culinary television reality shows in the universe. About 40 countries around the world have their own MasterChef program. ‘MasterChef Australia’ is at the top of the list in terms of popularity among the MasterChef events in the world. This is a game show of competitive cooking.
Recently a few cooking videos from MasterChef Australia that contain the most popular Bangladeshi dishes went viral on social media. Kishwar Chowdhury, a cook of Bangladeshi descent, got famous overnight by cooking traditional Bangladeshi dishes like Chicken Korma, smoked eggplant (Begun Vorta), Goat Rezala, Rangamati Barramundi curry, etc. Preparing delicious dishes one after another, Kishwar attracted the attention of the audience of different languages, including judges.
Who is Kishwar Chowdhury?
Kishwar Chowdhury, a native of Melbourne, Victoria, was born and raised in Australia. Although she is Australian, her family atmosphere has always remained Bengali. She is a business developer by profession. Her father Kamrul Hossain Chowdhury is a prominent businessman, social worker and freedom fighter, living in Victoria; and her mother is Laila Chowdhury. Although both his father and mother are Bangali, her father is from Bikrampur, Dhaka, while her mother is from Bardhaman, Kolkata in India. Both of her parents came to Australia in the 1980s, met each other and got married. Kishwar studied at Presbyterian Ladies College. She did a Bachelor of Commerce at Monash University. After that, she earned a postgraduate degree from the University of London in Graphic design.
There has been a debate whether Kishwar is Bangladeshi or Indian, while some Indian media claimed her as one of their own. However, she is 100% Bengali, but Half Indian and Half Bangladeshi. So, none of the nations can claim her as one of their own. She has an extended family in both Bangladesh and India.
The Way Her Interest in Cooking Grew
Despite living abroad, Kishwar’s parents have nurtured the language, culture, tradition and heritage of their countries, and they have encouraged their children to adopt it. From childhood, she was taught the traditional cooking of this part of the world, using classic ingredients. In their garden, the Chowdhury family produces everything from herbs to vegetables, peppers, and pumpkins. She grew a habit for cooking that she inherits from her family. Her father loved fishing, and she used to go fishing with him when she was a child. Moreover, she grew up seeing fresh fish cooked at home and the festive cooking environment was always present at her home in Australia.
Although Kishwar could not remember the age at which she started cooking, the first memory revolved around cooking in her memory is that her mother making a cake with a 3/4-year-old Kishwar next to her. She had been trained in chopping vegetables, onions, cutting fish and chickens since childhood. Sometimes, Kishwar’s mother used to give the responsibility of cooking to her sisters as well. Overall, Kishwar’s cooking started with her parents. No matter what the type of cooking, there was always a menu of Bengali food at home, especially for dinner. That’s how Kishwar learned cooking and grew her passion for cooking.
Kishwar Chowdhury’s Journey in Australian MasterChef
The thought of participating in MasterChef came to her mind after the coronavirus situation started in Australia in 2020 like all over the world. One thing that kept popping up in her head over the years was the thought regarding whether she could pass the knowledge to her children regarding the way her parents had instilled the culture, the food, the heritage onto her, or not. This is a common concern among all the parents who live outside the origin - and with that in mind, Kishwar plans to write a book for the next generation.
However, Kishwar never had any desire to apply to MasterChef Australia. It was her son's dream who is a fa of the reality show, and he often used to tell her to participate. This year, he suggested again that Kishwar applies for the Season 13 of MasterChef and finally Kishwar decided to apply, to give the rest of the world a taste of traditional Bengali cuisines.
A dedicated mother of her four-year-old daughter Serafina and eleven-year-old son Mikael, Kishwar's efforts seem to be gaining momentum soon. Her family alongside her life partner Ehtesham Newaz were always by her side. Presenting Bangladeshi food in the international arena was pretty challenging, but also was fun for Kishwar. Besides her family members, her friends also admired Kishwar's tasty dishes and cooking skills - however, there was a thought about how useful that cooking would be in such a globally renowned and prestigious competition. Nonetheless, her confidence, love and passion for the foods from her own roots and brilliant cooking skills finally made her one of the top three among the 24 contestants.
Kishwar has always wanted to introduce all the different Bengali dishes to the Australian natives. They were quite interested in Bengali cuisine and had unanswered questions about the foods. Hence, it was challenging for her whether the Australians would like it or not. There are many Bangladeshi restaurants in Australia, London, and other places in the world, but there is a lacking of traditional Bengali cuisines in those restaurants. Most of the dishes are Indian, even though the owners of those restaurants are mostly Bangladeshi. Her wish was to highlight authentic Bengali foods, and that is what she has accomplished in MasterChef Australia. With that motif, she became a highlighted contestant by cooking traditional Bangladeshi dishes like Chicken Korma, smoked eggplant (Begun Vorta), Goat Rezala etc. - even the less-known indigenous cuisines like Rangamati Barramundi curry. Preparing delicious dishes one after another, Kishwar attracted the attention of the audience of different languages and cultures, including the judges who praised Kishwar’s valiant efforts on every episode.
The forever heavenly Bengali cuisines, whether it is the ‘Malai Paan’ or ‘Panta Bhat’ - Kishwar Chowdhury honoured and glorified the traditional foods of this region in a globally celebrated platform of Masterchef, thus made herself the true champion winning the billion hearts of all Bangladeshi and Bengali people around the world.