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Knowing the world of food through MasterChef Andy Allen’s eyes

From wanting one last dinner with his late friend Jock Zonfrillo to loving vada pav, MasterChef winner and judge talks food.

The moment we heard that Chef Andy Allen was coming to Maximum City, we were acting like fangirls. For the ones who didn’t know who he was, we gave them some context. “You might know him from MasterChef Australia,” we said. “Was he a chef or a contestant?” “Both,” we grinned. Australia-based Chef Allen is known to be the winner of the fourth season of MasterChef Australia in 2012 and eight years later he was on the other side as a judge for the cooking competition from 2020.

Last month, Chef Allen came to Mumbai as part of the collaboration between the Australian Macadamia Society and ITC Fabelle Chocolates where he unveiled the 5 Taste Sensations chocolate box. It was an assortment of five chocolate pralines with a different flavour profile—sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and spicy—paired with exotic Australian macadamia nuts.

The Australian macadamia nuts are the common factor for each chocolate but the sweet flavour had a rich chocolate mousse with caramelised macadamia nuts, the salty one was infused with French sea salt and a chocolate cheese mousse, the bitter one is dark chocolate with roasted macadamia nuts, dipped in cocoa liquor. The sour chocolate is a fusion of fruity ruby chocolate with roasted macadamia nuts, dark chocolate mousse and a lemon conserve; whereas the spicy one had a milk chocolate shell, drizzled with dark chocolate and filled with macadamia nuts.

This collection was unveiled by Chef Allen; Rohit Dogra, Chief Operating Officer—Chocolates, Coffee, Confectionery & New Category Development Foods Division, ITC Limited; and Jacqui Price—General Manager Marketing, Australian Macadamia Society along with Chef Abinas Nayak—winner of the MasterChef India Season 6, Guntas Sethi—EU Food Ambassador in India and Saloni Kukreja—a homechef influencer. Chef Allen who co-curated the chocolates also unveiled 2,500 limited-edition packs autographed by him.

We sat down with Chef Allen to chat all about food. Edited excerpts from the interview:

If you were stranded on an island, what is the one condiment you’d take with you and why?

It would be surprisingly hot sauce because I love spicy food. I know that every Indian out there thinks that I’m a wimp when it comes to spicy food but I just show my emotions when I’m eating spicy food.

After cooking for everyone all the time, what is the one dish you would want to go home to?

It would be cacio e pepe, which is literally just pasta, pasta water, pecorino cheese, and black pepper. It is very simple but very tasty.

If you could ban one dish, which one would it be?

The tubed wasabi. I know it’s horseradish with green food coloring, but I feel like it hits me in the brain and I don’t like that feeling cause I need to look after my small, little tiny brain as much as I can.

One Indian dish you wish you got in Australia more easily.

One dish I wish I had gotten easier would be Dal Bukhara. I love how deeply rich and savory it is. And, I’ve never had it before until I came to India. So I’m bringing that back.

Your best MasterChef experience as a contestant.

I would say my best experience in the MasterChef as a contestant would be winning and having my family in the MasterChef kitchen. I never thought that that would happen being a young 23-year-old. It was a very, very special moment and has now opened up so many doors for me, and you know what’s happened after that.

(from left to right) Chef Andy Allen winning the fourth season of MasterChef Australia in 2012 at the age of 23. Chef Allen with fellow MasterChef judges-Mellisa Leong and late chef and restaurateur Jock Zonfrillo. Photos: Instagram

What do you like better – being a MasterChef judge or contestant?

I really did enjoy being a contestant. It was extremely tough and difficult. But you learnt so much being a contestant because there were so many different things that you were doing on a daily basis. Being a judge, there’s a lot less pressure.

Can you tell me about the collaboration between the Australian Macadamia Society and Fabelle?

Very happy to be in India launching the Five Sensations Taste, a Chocolate box with Fabelle and Australian Macadamia. The box is all based on five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and spicy. Each individual chocolate has one of those taste profiles and every chocolate has Australian macadamia in it. So for me to be able to bring an Australian product to India, and showcase that to you guys, I’m very, very stoked. I love them all. I think they’re delicious, but I think I’ll go with the spicy. It was probably the hardest to create. It has a little bit of ancho chilli, which is a little bit spicy, but also includes things like soy. So it’s very well balanced; and I think because it was the hardest and get it to where it is. It’s definitely my favourite.

You dream dinner guest, dead or alive and why.

Pulling on the heartstrings here. I would give anything to have one more dinner with my late great friend Jock Zonfrillo.

Andy Allen with Jock Zonfrillo

Andy Allen with late friend and MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo. Photos: Instagram

One thing you were looking forward to eat in Mumbai.

One thing which I didn’t know I was looking forward to eating until I actually ate was vada pav. Spicy, delicious, in a little pav, fluffy light roll. It had everything.

Your biggest pet peeve in the kitchen.

It would have to be people being messy. There’s no time for that. It makes everything more difficult, work clean, work tidy. Your food will be better.

Which is your favourite ingredient to cook with?

My favourite ingredient is seafood. Any type of seafood, really, I love all. My earliest memories of cooking were going to the beach or fishing or spearfishing, with my family coming back and cooking up the catch and it really did open my eyes to what food could be.

Your dream collaboration includes…

Last night, I was lucky enough to go for dinner at Bombay Canteen and I want to do a collab with those guys so bad.


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A post shared by Andy Allen (@andyallencooks)

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it to you?

The best piece of advice, was actually realised by myself, and it was on MasterChef. I thought to myself, if I could take every opportunity as a learning opportunity while I was on the show, then it would do a lot for me and it turns out it did.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

It comes with a bit of caution…lamb’s testicles. Yeah, it was not good.

How do you unwind?

After a long day at work, it’s very simple for me, I cook my wife and me dinner and we relax with either a beer or a glass of wine and spend some quality time together.