Thinking out the (lunch) box with MasterChef India contestant Harish Closepet
MasterChef was never on the cards for Closepet but it was his daughter who pushed him to apply for it and now, he is among the top six finalists on the show
Harish Closepet planned to keep his love for cooking limited to his family, friends, and most importantly, the lunch box of his daughter. Never did he think that things would snowball into a full-fledged Instagram page (@harrys_lunchbox), which would lead him to MasterChef India. “This whole food journey has been a sensation for me from starting my Instagram page and getting into MasterChef which was pretty challenging. But once I got in, the journey was exciting. I made lots of new friends and learned new techniques,” says Closepet aka Harry, on a call from Mumbai.
MasterChef was never on the cards for Closepet but it was his daughter who pushed him to apply for it and now, he is among the top six finalists on the show. “My daughter said, ‘Dad, why don’t you apply?’ Initially, I was quite reluctant since it seemed tough. She said, ‘You just apply now, we will later see what happens.” So I did just that, and they called me for the first round of auditions,” recalls Closepet, who went ahead and cleared the other auditions too. “The fifth one was a big one where I got the apron and my daughter put it on me. I couldn’t believe I was in the MasterChef kitchen,” says Closepet with disbelief even now.
Cooking on a show of this stature is different from what Closepet has been doing all this while. However, that didn’t intimidate him for a second. “It was not intimidating because I have travelled the world and experienced many different things. But it was very challenging. My food is all based on simple, easy-to-do 15-20 minute recipes. I had to elevate myself to do something a lot more creative,” says Closepet, adding, “I used all the techniques I knew in the past – like Singaporean cooking in Australia – and created something interesting. Of course, I only cook vegetarian food. Here, I also understood plating concepts which I never did,” says Closepet.
He emphasises that competitive cooking is not just about being up for challenges, it is also about strategizing moves. His watermelon rice was such an example, that even internationally acclaimed chef Marco Pierre White could not stop praising him. As a part of the challenge, all the contestants were given only 200ml of water to cook. “We had this five-minute pantry so I went in and started looking at things where I could get more fluids to cook. I saw the watermelon which contains 80% water. I grabbed it, extracted the juice, put all the masalas, and cooked the rice in it. It had a good tone of sweetened spice, I also squeezed in a bit of lemon. I didn’t expect it to turn out as well as it did,” says Closepet.
As the tasks get tougher, he is bracing for the challenges. “I am competitive. But strategy-based competition is what I like to do,” he signs off.