Chef Justin Narayan never really wanted to become a professional chef but a rollercoaster of a stint on MasterChef Australia in 2021, where he won the competition, led him on a journey that has brought him to India as part of the World on a Plate (WoAP) tour.
“I’ve always loved food and cooking for people. One thing led to another, and MasterChef happened. Really, it’s just my passion for food and love for working with other people that led me on this journey. It’s something I stumbled into and I’m really enjoying it at the moment,” he said.
HELLO! managed to catch the chef on a busy morning as he prepared to cook a Fijian-Indian feast for guests attending Rendezvous at Taj West End in Bengaluru that evening. It was a much-anticipated stop on his WoAP tour with a six-course degustation menu that the chef was “super excited for people to try”.
“It’s all simple ingredients with bold flavours,” he said, “All the flavours that I grew up eating and loving.”
The menu is an extension of Chef Narayan’s inherent food philosophy which, in his own words, is produce-driven and filled with nostalgia of the flavours he grew up with. “When people taste my food, I want them to experience my story and get to know me a little bit better. I want to give people an experience they enjoy and something that is delicious as well.”
The former MasterChef Australia winner explained how well Fijian and Indian cuisine complements each other. “The menu will show how well the two mesh together,” he said, “The flavours overlap and some of the techniques from Fijian cuisine has worked really well for traditional Indian flavours. Even the cultures have many crossovers, like how both are centred around food and family.”
The chef claims that it was his experience on the reality show that gave him the confidence of cooking from the heart and not over complicating things. This is why, he claims, he leans more towards big bold flavours that have been executed using simple techniques.
Before rushing off to go over his menu for the evening (“Kitchens can get very stressful!”), the chef leaves us with the recipe for one of his favourite dishes, his signature Chilli Garlic Mussels.
Here’s the recipe for Chef Justin Narayan’s Chilli Garlic Mussels…
2 Red Chillies
6 Garlic Cloves
1 cup Dry White Wine
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 can Chopped Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste
For the garnish:
Crusty French Baguette
1) Finely dice shallots, garlic and chilli.
2) Add the shallots to your Dutch oven with half of your butter and some oil then sweat down until translucent.
3) Add your garlic and chill and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
4) Add in your white wine and reduce by half then add your chicken stock and reduce by half. now add in a can of tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
5) Add in your mussels that have been cleaned well and throw them into your pot, place on a lid and cook for about 5 mins. Give it a shake every now and then.
6) Remove the lid and as soon as the mussels have opened and take them out of the pot and add to your serving bowl.
7) Once all mussels are cooked, reduce your sauce slightly, season with salt and pepper to taste and mix in the remaining butter.
8) Serve by ladling your sauce over the mussels, sprinkle with parsley and serve with some crusty bread to mop up all that saucy goodness.