Harman Sahni, an eighteen year old Commerce student at the Indian Community School Kuwait is a contestant on Star Plus Channel’s Masterchef India Season 4 that starts airing today. Blessed with an extraordinary flair for cooking, Harman has already made a name for himself being the youngest contestant. In an exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait, Nita Bhatkar Chogle quizzed him about his journey into Masterchef and his plans for the future.
Getting into Masterchef India was not an easy journey. Harman had to go through several rounds of selection process and being in Kuwait made it even more challenging. His first interaction was in an online interview through Skype, following which he had to send videos of his chopping skills. He was then asked to send a video of himself cooking a dish before he got a call to audition in Delhi.
Harman had to go through three rounds of auditions to make it to the top 65 out of over 3,500 contestants. His winning dish was a kabab made out of five different lentils aptly titled panchratni dal kabab accompanied by a cheesy sauce and smoked tomato and pineapple chutney. For the audition round he had to give an invention test, with just 30 minutes to create something new with one main ingredient and a limited pantry of other supplies. Harman’s main ingredient was potatoes and he aced the invention round with a potato halwa with green apples which he called aloo ka meetha mazza. The icing on the cake was that he managed to even make one of the base components of the dish, the khoya which is very time consuming, from scratch.
Since then there has been no looking back for this handsome young man. Harman is the son of Jasvinder Singh Sahni who works for Al Wazzan Computer Systems and Baljeet Kaur, a home maker, both long time residents of Kuwait. He also has a younger sister, Japneet Sahni that is studying in class five at the Indian Community School.
“I was in class six when I started cooking and got very serious about cooking in class ninth,” says Harman about when he got into cooking. Harman’s family hosted a lot of dinner gatherings and this gave him the opportunity to practice his skills more often. “Cooking is something that gives me happiness and I love to feed people,” explains Harman.
Having learnt from his mom, his aunt Savinder Kaur and You Tube, he loves making curries, kababs and baking. So the all important question, how did Harman get into cooking? “Cooking revolves in my family. I heard that my grandfather, who passed away when I was just one, loved cooking and would cook the best goat meat. Unfortunately I did not get to try it myself. My aunt is also very passionate about cooking and cooks langar (communal meal) in Kuwait. My mom is also a very good cook. I grew up watching them cook and loved eating all their yummy food. Two of my cousins are also chefs.”
As his passion for the culinary arts grew and the praises for his dishes started flowing, Harman picked up the finer details of food preparation like fine chopping, temperature of cooking, consistency of dishes, etc. from his cousin Chef Aman Sahni. He also gives immense credit to You Tube for playing the role of a teacher.
“I love to watch Gordon Ramsay. He is my favorite chef of all time. Chef Vikas Khanna is my favorite Indian chef,” adds Harman. But his inspiration is his mom, his aunt and cousin Neety Kohli who is the pillar of support for him and was the one that motivated and encouraged him to try out for Masterchef India.
Speaking of family, what about his friends? Did they not find his gastronomic pursuits unusual? “A few of my friends know about my hobby but a lot are going to be shocked to find out about it when they see Masterchef. But I know they are all going to be happy to see me there.”
Harman is definitely not all work and no play; he also likes playing cricket with his friends in Kuwait. He also enjoy volley ball, swimming and watching TV. And he is a huge gadget freak as well. But cooking still ranks first when compared to all his other interests.
When it comes to taking up cooking professionally, Harman touches on how his parents are apprehensive but he wants to use Masterchef to prove himself and set his base for the future. He also hopes to open his own Michelin starred restaurant some day. “I really want to win the title of Masterchef more than the prize money,” Harman stresses.
His words of advice to other aspiring chefs like himself - “In any profession you should follow your heart and do what you like to do. When it comes to cooking, you just cook your heart out and love whatever you are cooking.”
As we close we ask him to complete the sentence “Food is…” and snap, comes his reply, “Food is life for me. I love the aroma of spices and it just gives me an immense amount of happiness.”