MasterChef was “a dream come true”

MasterChef was “a dream come true”

Taking part in the BBC’s MasterChef had long been a dream, yet Old Elizabethan Rishi Nanavati assumed the programme would not be interested in his vegetarian and vegan food.

But when the young dentist went along to try out for the show last year, he found that far from ruling him out, the MasterChef team were “actually quite intrigued: they loved what I did”.

Rishi (OE 2006–2013) went on impress in the first episode of the current series with his dish, a coconut, lemongrass and chilli aloo tikki served with a coriander yoghurt, a tapioca cracker and topped with lime leaf sherbert and a raw mango chutney.

MasterChef judge John Torode calling the dish “bang on the money”, and Rishi was the first of the nine contestants to progress to the next round.

His dessert, a dark chocolate pavé topped with a pistachio dust and crystallised pistachios with a cardamon shortbread biscuit, saffron caramel and a cardamom crumb, was described by the celebrity chef as “professional level”.

He reached the quarter-final stage before being eliminated and is very positive about the whole experience. “I loved it. It was definitely very intense. There’s a lot of pressure, you have to stick to the timings, and you are cooking in front of two of the biggest food critics.” [John Torode and Greg Wallace]

Rishi, who is 27, relished the “amazing feedback” and the opportunity to cook alongside “very talented people”.

He had told an interviewer ahead of the series’ broadcast: “I’ve been a vegetarian all my life and really want to showcase the potential that vegetarian and vegan food really has, especially with a fusion of pan-Asian flavours.”

Now back home, he posted to his Instagram followers last week: “Still can’t believe this happened. For modern vegetarian food to be on a national platform and having the opportunity to be the one to portray it. That’s a dream come true.”

Rishi told QE Connect: “I started helping around the kitchen around the age of seven or eight, doing really simple jobs. When I was 12 or 13, I started doing recipe development.”

Looking back, he can see that his time at QE helped lay the platform for his current success, both in his career and in his ability to cope with the intense demands of the show. “I think the pressure of School did set me up for future pressure – in a good way! It was a lot of hard work and I got used to working hard and working independently.

“And I had a very good time and made friends for life.”

Rishi who lives back at his parents’ home in Pinner, remains in close contact with a group of eight alumni, including two, Nihir Shah and Vishal Davda, who read Dentistry with him at Bristol.

In the past few years, he has started to share his passion for cooking with others, through food blogging and social media.

Asked about how he plans to balance his cooking and his dentistry, he said: “I would love to juggle both. Dentistry does give you flexibility.” After the excitement of the show, he is now taking a few months to decide how to move forward.