From Winning the MasterChef Season 1 to becoming a Celebrity Chef, an author and the Brand Ambassador of many renowned brands, Pankaj Bhadouria has come a long way. Hers is a journey marked by many illustrious milestones.
A great story in writing, from a high school teacher to the well-known Chef, Pankaj Bhadouria has sailed through each difficulty with perfection.
A truly inspirational personality, she has hosted the TV shows Chef Pankaj Ka Zayka, Kifayati Kitchen, 3 Course with Pankaj, Rasoi se — Pankaj Bhadouria ke Saath, Sales Ka Baazigar. She was the first MasterChef Winner worldwide to have an official MasterChef Cookbook in her name and has written two more cookery books, namely Barbie- I am a Chef, and Chicken from my Kitchen.
Wordhazard brings you the tête-à-tête with the Chef. Read on!
WH: How will you describe Pankaj Bhadouria? Is she different from the one on the screen?
Pankaj Bhadouria: (smiles while thinking for second) I really don’t change myself, be it on-screen or off-screen.
The only difference is that, off the screen, let’s say, I am teaching a class of about 20 to 30 people, and the camera is taking it 20 to 30 million people.
WH: How were you as a kid? Did the cooking talent come to you naturally or did you learn it by years of practice?
Pankaj Bhadouria: Well, I was a tomboy till late in my life. I loved food, both eating & cooking it. Both of my parents were excellent cooks. The best thing that strengthened my bond with food was family time.
Giving most of the credit to family, Pankaj Bhadouria says, “The kitchen was the common room for us where me, dad mom and my younger brother, all four of us used meet, where my mother cooked and my father helped and we used to watch and enjoy cooking.”
WH: You chose English as the subject of your graduation and authored many books. Which book/s made a great impact on you and you would like the young generation to read?
Pankaj Bhadouria: Yes, of late I read the book ‘The Alchemist’.
I was a voracious reader anything that came into my hand. Newspapers, travel magazines, food magazines, Mills and Boon, Barbara Cartland, you name it! I loved reading History too.
But ‘The Alchemist’ really made a great change. One of the best, concise and deep novelty, it will really help you if you understand it.
WH: Apart from MasterChef, did any metamorphic experience influence you in a monumental way?
Pankaj Bhadouria: When I was 13, my father passed away. We had to do everything on our own, had no support system so it kind of hard for us and made us very self-sufficient. I don’t get worked up easily.
God has given me a lot of patience and it was the one drastic period that molded my personality.
WH: You have a great sense of dressing as you have over cooking. What is your take on that?
Pankaj Bhadouria: I dress to please myself. Up to this point, I didn’t change myself even after the Masterchef.
WH: Your husband and you make a very cute couple, and for sure you give serious couple goals! What is that makes you both different?
Pankaj Bhadouria: (proudly & lovingly ) He is the one who has built the brand, you must understand this. Pankaj Bhadouria is just this person who won the Master chef, but he is the one who has actually built everything– the restaurant ,the Academy. It is his brain behind it. He has been a big support, rock of the family. He is not behind me, he is right next to me. He is the reason why I’m able to roam around the world very easily without any thoughts.
WH: How did MasterChef happen to you? Right from its highs down to the lows, what led you to the greatest winning?
Pankaj Bhadouria: There was this advertisement, a commercial running on the television. My kids said “Mom you are an excellent cook” and inspired me to go for it. I made the call got selected!
And this was the first of its kind. I said “why not” I went there, sailed through the auditions, journeyed from Mumbai to the last win.
WH: You always keep Lucknow inside you and in your dishes always reflect a Lakhnavi touch. What does Lucknow mean to you?
Pankaj Bhadouria: Lucknow is all about its refinement and my food reflects how the city is. So somewhere down the lane, you learn a lot about food that it isn’t necessarily needed as loud and robust that’s what I love about Lakhnavi food. When I went for my audition, I carried a French dish “Chicken Roulade” and the stuffing inside was the Galawati Kebab. So you know, Lucknow somewhere lived there.
WH: You are an inspirational figure to millions of women. How do you suggest them to find that push to become what they want to?
Pankaj Bhadouria: Please understand this, the urge comes from within. Nobody can push you to do anything, it only comes from within. For me, quitting my job was a personal decision and, fortunately my entire family supported me. If somebody wants to do something, then they must do it themselves. It is you who decide why you want to do that, for personal satisfaction, for supporting your family.
WH: How do you think women must be empowered?
Pankaj Bhadouria: Woman is a very powerful force in driving the society. Social norms and rules are very deeply grained, but then nobody is asking anyone to play by the rules. If you are good in whatever you do, if you are managing your home efficiently, you are a good manager.
If you are doing things on your own, you are an empowered woman. You want to step out and work, that is entirely your choice. If you have support, so much the better. If you don’t have that support then you have to generate that support for yourself.
If you want to do something and your family is not supporting you, then you should ask yourself that “what it is that I want to do?” Also, you must have a shared responsibility with your spouse.
There is nobody who could push you to do anything, nobody who can force you to do anything. It is you can always make a way out. It’s just that simple.