BENGALURU: Ask Sandeep Pandit on how he balances between a celebrity chef and an IT professional at Cognizant, and he casually jokes saying, “I just have a lot of loss of pay,” but emphasises that the organisation does provide him the flexibility to focus on his food journey. Pandit mesmerised close to 40 diners with a specially curated continental and fusion delicacies ranging from Tandoori-spiced Cauliflower Steaks to delicious Croquettes with Pomelo and Braised and Grilled Lamb at the event, Our Table with Jacob’s Creek, at Daddy, Indiranagar, on Friday.
Pandit dials back to the days when his family migrated from Kashmir during the exodus in 1990 to Bengaluru when he was eight years old and described the condition as a stark reality to which his family had to adjust. “My mom had to take up a job and taught me how to boil food so that my sister and I don’t end up eating stale food every day. From there on, the kitchen became a happy place, otherwise the realities of life were pretty hard. Things gradually got better with family feeling stable but my love for cooking just grew further. I went on to study engineering but my passion in the kitchen still continued,” says Pandit.
In 2016, he moved to Australia to work as an IT professional but also came across the opportunity of participating in MasterChef Australia, which saw him enter the Top-11 list in the competition but had to discontinue due to a back injury. Speaking about his connect with Bengaluru, Pandit says it was the humble Lemon Rice which got him the apron at the show. His love for Kashmiri cuisine was the core of his MasterChef journey. “I never thought I would be able to recreate Kashmiri delicacies such as Tehr, Haaq, Muji Chetin and Roghan Josh in 60 minutes and also cut my own meat. It was a humbling experience,” he adds. Pandit emphasises that Kashmiri cuisine not only has its origins from Iran and Persia but also takes a lot of inputs from the Silk Route.
During his stint on MasterChef, his inclination towards Indian cuisine prompted social media users to wonder whether he lacks skills in Continental cooking. “I am trying to break two myths, one being that I can’t cook continental delicacies and the second being that Indian food doesn’t go well with wine,” he says. Speaking about his future projects, he says the food dream will continue to be the big focus. “I am going back to Kashmir and learning from the best wazwan makers so I can make delicacies like Gushtaba by pounding the meat from scratch. There is a lot of tradition and science behind ancient food cultures that we need to adopt in order to preserve them for future. Hopefully, we will see a restaurant too,” Pandit says.