MasterChef‘s Sumeet Saigal On Why Winning The Simmer Sauce Challenge Goes Beyond Her “Wildest Dreams”

Many a dream has come true in the MasterChef Australia kitchen, but at no time was this more obvious than in Thursday night's episode. Contestant Sumeet Saigal won the coveted Immunity Challenge, which not only secured her spot in the top 10 but also gave her something she's been dreaming of her whole life: a sauce of her own creation hitting Coles shelves nationwide.
During the challenge set by celebrity judge Curtis Stone, contestants were required to create a fusion sauce. Saigal blew the judges away with her unique blend of Italian and Indian flavours, featuring meatballs and naan with oregano chilli butter. Saigal's win means that her winning recipe will now be hitting Coles shelves nationwide, with shoppers able to add her recipe to their shopping trolleys very soon.
For Saigal, the win is a physical manifestation of her cooking dreams. "That is absolutely every dream that I've had," she tells Refinery29 Australia. "Every food dream that I've had, this is far more magnificent a manifestation of it."
And a manifestation, it is. For Saigal, the idea of packaging up and selling an Indian sauce was so important that she had even come up with potential branding for it during her MasterChef application.
"If there was one challenge I had to win in this competition, this was the one for me," Saigal says. "The sauce has always been my thing... It's been on my application form with my sauce bottles. I've had a vision for it. I've had such a clear food dream. I literally had my branding done up in my mind and the whole proposition page done up! It was such a clear idea for me in my mind."
With this clarity of vision, Saigal knew that she had to win this challenge. "When I walked into that challenge that day, I just thought to myself, this is the one for me to win," she tells us. "This was it."
The home cook shares that she's still grappling with the magnitude of that win. "To have won it, it's much more magnificent than my wildest dreams," she says. "It's such a beautiful moment and such a 'pinch me' moment. It took me two or three days after for it to sink in that it actually happened. It's pretty special."
Saigal, who came to Australia from India in 1998, explains that during her time in Australia, she has witnessed the Indian food scene change. However, she still finds that Indian food tends to get "typecast" in a particular way.
"It's sort of like [people think] Indian foods are too difficult to make, or it's complicated to do. There's too many spices, it's a whole long process. It's easier to go to a restaurant and eat the meal," she says.
But she says that seeing her sauce in Coles stores takes her one step closer to her ultimate goal, which is to break down stereotypes about Indian cooking — and to bring it into every home.
"For me, it's always been a very clear dream to have everyone really enjoy that style of Indian food, where you can see the versatility of it," she explains. "It's not, 'Oh my gosh, it's too spicy', or 'I can only have it on a cold winter's night'. But more that you can actually use Indian spices and Indian flavours in different meals and have a nice, milder, more wholesome [dish] and actually enjoy the beauty of the delicacy of the spices."
Saigal says that often when people think of Indian food, they think of it as being homogenous. "It's like saying 'European food', but it is so different — every country in Europe has a different style of cooking. The same is true with India," she says. "I feel like when it's boxed into one thing, it's an incorrect way to look at that cuisine because there are so many different aspects to it."
Sharing India's history, Saigal explains that the food there has many influences, including Portuguese, French, Dutch, British and Mughal. "There's so much influence that has been brought into the country and taken out of the country. It's really an exploration from the South to the North," she says. "That's the stereotype that needs to be broken and understood."
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