Victory Sweeter Than ” Chhena Poda”

At this time last year , Abinas Nayak was dreaming of doing something with food but was confused and lacked confidence whether he was ready to quit his job. But today this 28 year old techie from Infosys stands proud with the tag of “ Master – chef season 6 winner”. Abinas recalls when he wheeled in his dish “ Besara chicken “ ,all he wanted was to make it to top 15. “ it was the first stage where we were competing for the apron …chef Ranveer tasted and asked me about the traditional Odia dish after which I was simply told “ you were selected” , no questions asked, no interview while other participants had to go through a 30 min interview…when I saw the show’s footage later , I was enthralled to see the chefs fighting to have a bite “ ‘ says a beaming Abinas. He credits his interest in cooking to his mother  and grand mother with whom he has spent most of his schooling years in S.A.I.E.R.C , Rajgangpur . Abinas who hails from Berhampur ,is a graduate from the Gandhi Institute of technology advancement , Bbsr. He believes his not being from a culinary background was a blessing in disguise as it compelled him to go through more books and youtube videos to be at par with his competitors. He says the most challenging task was “ the republic day” episode  where “ we had to make 15 foot thalis with 50 dishes from different regions of Odisha” , he recalls.

He is not the one to constantly debate about the GI tag of rasagulla but has attempted to give a twist to it and present it as “ mandara rasagulla” ( hibiscus flower stuffed rasagulla) . his instagram page is full of dishes like chicken drumsticks , kebabs on beetle leaves ,etc. a self_ taught food – stylist, Abinas believes his winning the” Lokicooks fellowship “ in 2019 acted as a catalyst for his further quest for food . he wanted to leave a mark – not for himself, or his cooking skills , but for odia cuisine which people aren’t aware of. He wanted to show the world that odia cuisine is more than just “ pakhala bhata” and “ sukhua”, and he does that in the finale. His contender oindrila bala from Kolkata was undoubtedly strong.  Finale is what he jokingly calls is “ the battle of east.” For the three – course meal in the grand finale he combines all that he had learnt from the judges, youtube and his mother. He made “ vermicelli coated fried prawn” with a tempering of odia” pago “ and “ ambulo” which was the starter , “ ada mangsho” (ginger lambs), for the main course and the lost sweet dish of Odisha “ chhena poda” , as his dessert. Two moments which he would remember for lifetime was when chef Vikas cries “ jai ho Odisha” after tasting “ besara chicken” and the last prize giving moment. With a golden chef coat , masterchef trophy and prize money of 25 lakhs , Abinas dreams to open his own restaurant “ but whenever and wherever I do , I want a Michelin star to show the world how beautiful the Odia cuisine is.”

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