April 2024

Interview with Kishwar chowdhury

How long have you been working in the food industry?

I stepped into the food industry with a placement at Ishizuka just after shooting MasterChef in 2021, so about three years professionally.

What enticed you to enter this industry?

Initially I intended to become a food writer once MasterChef ended, but something about service really drew me in. A huge part of this was the MasterChef service challenges in some of Melbourne’s iconic restaurants. I loved the adrenaline rush, watching my creations leave the pass and seeing the effect certain dishes have on people.

How has your upbringing contributed to your role as a cook/chef?

Absolutely! My biggest culinary influences are my parents and the stories they shared of my ancestors. What they bought to the dinner table was more than meals or recipes, it was about produce, sustainability, heritage and passing down a way of life.

What are some of your favourite/core memories in the kitchen, growing up?

Some of my earliest memories are the smells and sounds of my parents baking. Whether it was sitting on the countertop mixing cake batter with mum, or kneading paratha dough with my father, my core memories centre around being with both mum and dad in the kitchen and the warm smell of baked goods.

How has your culture/ethnicity contributed to your role as a cook/chef?

I find deep appreciation for my heritage and cuisine the more I dive into it, but food has also helped me consolidate my identity as an Australian. I find communicating who I am through the dishes I create, a mix of heritage dishes, ancient techniques with Australian and native produce, lets me express myself fully on a plate.  

Who has been your biggest inspiration in your life as a cook/chef?

My biggest inspirations have been my parents, because of the hands on role they played in my understanding of food and how it creates a sense of community. As I got older, I admired the female chefs I saw on screen like Kylie Kwong, Maggie Beer and Poh.

What are your key ingredient staples?

Good salt. Good butter. A little smoke.

What trends in cooking/food are you big on now?

I don’t know if it counts as trending, but something I’m glad has a global focus again is eating sustainably. Whether it’s about seasonality, locality, provenance, sourcing…I think conversations around where our food comes from, why we eat it, and reverting to how our ancestors cooked is something we’ll see more of. 

What is your favourite dish of all time?

Haleem. It’s a tediously slow cooked stew, usually of goat or lamb shoulder with lentils and barley. It’s made once a year during Ramadan and I wait every year to have it.

What specific skills have given you an edge in this role?

My love of hospitality, whether it’s on my dining table or cooking for a black tie gala, I genuinely want people to leave with their hearts full. Behind the pass it’s probably my ability to pivot and problem solve in high pressure situations.

What are some of the key skills you’ve gained in your time as cook/chef?

A lot of my work involves flying to another country and executing high-end government and corporate events. There are months of planning beforehand, sourcing ingredients and it’s always a different city, different kitchen, different team. I think my key takeaway is strong communication and having a hold on logistics to achieve well-oiled services.

What, in your opinion is the key to ensuring customer satisfaction when it comes to dining experiences?

To simplify it, customers want to feel good. Whether it’s fine dining, canteen or carnival food, balancing good atmosphere, skilled front of house and undeniably good food is what people will travel for.

What keeps things interesting for customers when they try your food?

Mostly, my customers are trying food from this region for the very first time. The most common compliment I get is that they’ve never tried anything like this before. I also like reimagining nostalgic dishes, like street foods and desserts and to create a sense of fun and playfulness on the plate.

Who would you say your customers are?

A lot of my customers are MasterChef fans here and abroad, who love the show or are curious about my cuisine.

What do they expect when they try your food?

Bengali food is subtle and not very heavily spiced. It draws roots from Persia, India and South-East Asia, so there’s quite a variety of flavours and techniques across dishes. In this menu I’ve showcased some punchy street food starters, coastal, tropical flavours for the entree and a smokey, hearty, Mughal inspired main.

What do you enjoy doing in your time away from cooking?

When I’m not cooking or traveling for work, I love being on our farm with the kids, catching a show in the city or discovering new restaurants across town.

Alumni Restaurant

Discover ALUMNI restaurant where Kishwar will have her residency at Crown Melbourne along side some of your MasterChef favourites.

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