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MasterChef Kriti Dhiman: Blending Tradition with Innovation in Culinary Creations

Kriti Dhiman

Kriti Dhiman journey as a chef has been deeply rooted in her childhood experiences, where she learned cooking from her family and gradually developed a passion for it. Her pivotal moment came when she discovered her love for baking and began experimenting with flavors and techniques, eventually leading her to create unique desserts that blend tradition with innovation.

Kriti Dhiman
Picture Credit: Kriti Dhiman

In navigating the fine balance between tradition and innovation, Kriti emphasizes the importance of holding onto traditional recipes while finding ways to elevate them. She draws inspiration from her upbringing in Gobindgarh, Punjab, where she learned to appreciate the cultural and traditional aspects of cooking while facing challenges due to limited ingredient availability.

In the competitive environment of Master Chef India, Kriti stays true to her culinary identity by focusing on her strengths and not comparing herself to others. She finds support from her family, especially her father, who influenced her early cooking experiences and encouraged her to pursue her passion.

Kriti’s culinary evolution includes creating innovative dishes like fermented black garlic ice cream, where she explores new ingredients and flavors. She maintains attention to detail in fast-paced competitions by staying calm and making confident decisions under pressure.

Looking forward, Kriti is passionate about exploring Indian desserts from different regions and making them more widely known. Her favorite cuisine is Punjabi, and she believes in the inspirational quote, “Your attitude makes all the difference,” which reminds her to radiate confidence and positivity in her culinary endeavors.

When did you start your journey as a Chef?

Kriti’s journey as a chef started when she was a child, and she used to learn cooking from her family. During her free time, Kriti used to learn how to cook their family’s cultural dishes in her free time. Gradually, cooking became her interest, so she decided to make cooking her professional career and learn it better. That’s how her journey started.

Can you share a pivotal moment in your culinary journey that you believe defined your unique approach to cooking?

Kriti’s unique approach to cooking was when she discovered that baking is what she loves and started baking back then. A small home-run bakery, which was located in her city, was opened. She started learning the recipes for new desserts and experimenting with them, and she also started creating her flavours. When Kriti began experimenting, she learned new tasty flavours she could try. Apart from ready-made recipes, there were her unique recipes with new flavours, which made the recipe different from others. Generally, she studies the ingredients and sees whether they go together. For this approach, she paired some ingredients in this show for her desserts.

How do you navigate the fine balance between tradition and innovation in your culinary creations?

Holding onto the traditional recipes is vital as it can elevate the dish to the next level. As one of the challenges in the show, she made a basic Tres leches cake, a Kashmiri spice with saffron and other spices like cinnamon and cardamom. But what made the dish elegant and even won the title of “Dish of the Day” was instead of using the regular crumble, which is utilized in the Western world, she used the authentic Punjabi recipe taught by her grandma, which is made at their home every winter. Panjeri is a crumble made of ghee and gram flour instead of butter and regular flour.

When we use our traditional recipe in a way that elevates the whole dish, it makes all the difference. One can change the way and try new ways to give a modern taste. Kriti firmly believes in holding onto traditional recipes, elevating or using them one way or another. Whatever modern dish she is making does not look basic and straightforward; it has more elements.

As a baker, what specific challenges do you face in a competition that often emphasizes diverse culinary skills?

The most difficult challenge she faced in the kitchen as a baker was timing because baking requires a lot of time and patience. The challenges were thrown at the participants, so they didn’t get enough time to think and execute things. Participants have to do everything in one hour. In baking, one hour is minimal; one needs time to bake, cool down, and then cut and present it. Otherwise, the desserts turn out poorly. Most desserts require at least five to six hours as they are very elaborate. Indian desserts, as well, need a lot of time. Time was the main challenge for Kriti in the Master Chef Kitchen. There were a few desserts which she wanted to try but needed more time to execute.

How has your upbringing in Gobindgarh, Punjab, influenced the flavours and techniques you incorporate into your dishes?Kriti’s family always supported what she wanted to do or whatever decisions she made. The moment she decided that she no longer wanted to study chemistry and wanted to go into baking and the culinary world, her family was very supportive of the situation. Living in Gobindgarh has also influenced and given her a sense of blessing.

There were some disadvantages as well because Gobindgarh was a small city. There was not much availability of ingredients or premium ingredients. There were many new ingredients in the Master Chef’s Kitchen. Although she has seen them on the internet, she has yet to get a chance to taste them. Coming from a small town has pros and cons, but it also means having significant cultural and traditional aspects at home. One is connected to the roots, which helped her a lot.

In the competitive environment of Master Chef India, how do you stay true to your culinary identity while adapting to new challenges?

Initially, staying true to the culinary identity was a challenge. After entering the stage, one saw many people from different religions and areas. When competing with the other participants, one must do things that are their strengths, not look at or compare with others, because everyone has different strengths. Kriti learned this over time, making her go to the semi-finals. There is much more she is left to learn and discover.

Could you highlight a dish that holds a special place in your heart and represents a significant milestone in your culinary evolution?

When a spice mix, Sashimi Tobarashi, was presented, it was very spicy; automatically, after tasting it, she was almost in tears because of the extreme spice. Desserts are Kriti’s strength, as she mentioned. People usually go with their strengths, like South Indian Cuisine, Kashmir’s, and Himachali. But after getting that spice mix, she was terrified. It was a blank moment for two minutes; she could not figure out what to do. Kriti took a deep breath and thought about the elements and layers of the spice. Because spices are a mix of a few spices, she could remove some of the spices and change their ratios. That helped to create the dessert, and she made a Yuzu lemon tart. She got a spoon tap from Chef Ranveer.

All the judges were very impressed. There was a special hug from Chef Pooja. She realized that people limit desserts; they think of only specific flavours like berries, vanilla or chocolate to make dessert. But there are many variations. There were poppy seeds and the extract of Yuzu lemon.

These elements acted as a bridge that goes in both sweet and savoury. That moment gave her a sense of courage, confidence, and strength that her baking quality was not limited. She can do creative things, like Black garlic ice cream, which went viral and published many articles. She had delivered a few lovely desserts on the show.

With the demanding competition schedule, how do you manage the pressure and maintain creativity in your cooking?

The show has very long hours, and one must stay strong, which also comes from experience. She grew up in a very non-competitive and heartwarming environment. Maintaining a balance was challenging. But she tried my best to be creative and did not let the pressure affect her or her creativity. But sometimes, it did affect me. The show truly tests how well one can handle pressure. They are all good cooks; there is no doubt that is why the bunch was selected for the show. But how one performs under pressure is the main challenge. One has to have a powerful mindset to get to the finale.

What role does your family play in supporting your culinary aspirations, especially considering your father’s influence on your early cooking experiences?

Kriti’s family supported a lot, which was a big thing; it was like a wave of support. She shared that on the days she felt a bit low, she used to call her family; they were very supportive, which kept her going. Their guidance was she must stay true to herself, stay strong, and not get demotivated even if something goes against her. Competitions mean someone has to win, but one still needs to improve.

She has witnessed her father enjoying cooking, so that was the main thing for her. Her father always suggested that she must enjoy cooking, not something that brings pressure; he loved cooking for the family, and for Kriti, cooking is all about feeding others good food and enjoying the process.

How do you see yourself contributing to the evolving landscape of Indian cuisine, both locally and internationally?

The main motto was to make people aware of the ingredients they use and not limit themselves as she had used. Some bold choices had been made, like black garlic ice cream and sweet corn muse. She also used the spice mix—the mixture of Western and Indian desserts- in the group challenge. She wants people to know more about desserts, not limit themselves to French cooking and baking techniques. They should not make dishes marked in the book; instead, they should learn more about new flavours and have a basic knowledge of flavour.

She would love to impart my knowledge to the new people still left to explore and create new things. Kriti never made a dish which was traditionally available in the market. She always tries to do something innovative.

Kriti has always had this approach to exploring new ingredients. Some days, you fail, and some days are not so good, but one should keep experimenting and not limit food to all the traditional flavours and create new dishes on our own.

In a world where culinary trends constantly change, how do you stay informed and innovative in your approach to cooking?The knowledge about food never ends; this she learnt from the judges; they say this field is ever evolving, and there is a discovery every day. There are so many cuisines and ingredients all around the world. In India, so many states have their own unique dishes, styles of cooking and ingredients. It is a learning curve. Staying informed, reading books are essential. She has a lot of books, and keep looking on YouTube.

She follows Chef Ranveer very much because he has a lot of theoretical and practical knowledge about food. Learning never stops in this industry. The judges say that they keep learning.

When it comes to a single cuisine, desserts or Punjabi cuisine, she stated that she might not know all of it because there are small villages and towns with different cooking styles or native dishes. After all, exploring new places, food, and ingredients is essential in cooking.

Can you elaborate on your creative process when conceptualizing and creating innovative dishes like fermented black garlic ice cream?

Whenever she sees a new ingredient, she tries to analyze its flavour. Kriti had never tried black garlic, so that was the first time. When she was doing my research about this ingredient, the process of fermentation also involved caramelization, and one needs to know the science behind the ingredient. When caramelized, it leaves a very prominent sweet note with umami. After tasting it for the first time, she recognized that if it has a sweet note, why can’t it be used in their dessert? She thought of everyone who took the black garlic challenge and made a severe dish out of it.

She made a dessert, which was very innovative and worked in her favour. Knowing ingredients and exploring each one of them in different dishes is vital. The four basic flavours are sweet, sour, bitter and salty, but umami now works as a fifth flavour. Curd is used in different dishes, including salty and sweet dishes. Categorizing each ingredient and not limiting it to one particular item is essential.

Precision is a hallmark of your culinary style. How do you maintain such attention to detail in a fast-paced and high-pressure competition like MasterChef?

 In Master Chef Kitchen, all must be active, and all minds should be alert because one mistake can cost a lot in a limited time. Participants don’t get extra ingredients and must stay calm and not panic. The dishes didn’t come out well. She has experienced this, so that challenge didn’t go well. Losing one of my ingredients cost her, and she made one mistake. Making decisions confidently and strongly is very important. More than cooking, it is how you react to such a big competitive environment. The best dish was the outcome of how one utilizes time and ingredients.

Maintaining such attention to detail, her mantra was to stay calm. She used to take a deep breath before the challenge. One might make mistakes out of panic when in such a competitive zone.

Looking forward, what areas of the culinary world do you feel most passionate about exploring or mastering in the future?

Kriti would love to make desserts but has yet to gain professional training. But she learned a lot from all the chefs, especially Chef Pooja, because she is the dessert queen. She does not want to limit the dessert making to French or Western desserts, but this year, the main aim is to learn all about Indian desserts. Every state has a minimum of four to five stable desserts native to that state; our Country, India, is very diverse and full of rich culture.

We have a lot of desserts in our country, and many people have yet to discover that. There are only a few common desserts, but there are desserts that are yet to be discovered. She is eager to learn about them and create them modernly. Make people aware of the Indian desserts.

Your favorite Cuisine?

Kriti’s favourite Cuisine is Punjabi; She thinks she is biased, especially North Indian food. Regional Punjabi food is soul food for her. She can eat three times a day and every day.

Kriti Dhiman Inspirational Quote?

The quote she believes in is told by Chef Vikas, “Your attitude makes all the difference”. She was very under-confident and nervous on her first day. He also added that if you are not confident as a chef, how would you convince people that the dish is good? This is the mantra she would like to take forward in 2024. You have to feel confident and radiate positivity and confidence in the people. You have to own up to things.

 

News Shot 24
Author: News Shot 24

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