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US Masterchef girl to make Gujarati food famous


By Sugandha Rawal

In the US, she is ‘the Indian girl from Masterchef’! Indian American chef Hetal Vasavada, who has been treating her foreign friends on the reality TV show with khichdi and coconut curry soup, says food from her native Gujarat — also the home of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — is neglected in the west. She hopes to bring the cuisine in limelight in the most “traditional” way.

Vasavada, 28, who was one of the top six finalists of the last season of Star World show “MasterChef US”, said that most people in the west think that Gujarati food is all about dollops of sugar. But she wants to dispel the notion as she feels regional cuisine is an answer to foreigners who think Indian food is “heavy” and “creamy”.

“I think Gujarati food is neglected a lot, especially in restaurants in the US. There are south Indian restaurants with dosa, and then there are Punjabi restaurants. A lot of people think that Gujarati food is just lots of sugar… But it’s not. It is definitely healthy and very tasty,” Vasavada said over the phone from Bloomsfied in New Jersey, where she stays.

There are other things to Vasavada’s stride – be it being the first Indian vegetarian to be a part of the foreign show or be it popularising the sombre Indian khichdi. Now, she wants to do more to widen the perception about Indian food in the west.

“The first way I did it was on ‘Masterchef’ when I made khichdi, and then I made other authentic dishes. But I think that the best way to introduce (the cuisine) is to make it in a traditional way and show people what Gujarati food is, especially to some westerners who say that ‘I don’t want to have Indian food because it is very heavy, so creamy.

“Gujarati food is for them. It can be very light. It is Indian food, but a different kind of Indian food,” she said.

Vasavada is happy about the growing interest around Indian food on foreign shores, as she shares that now people are willing to experiment beyond the butter-chicken and chicken tikka.

“I think a lot of people are venturing out and trying new food and different versions. There are two reasons why Indian food is becoming famous — because of different spices, and because people are ready to try different food.

“When I was younger there were not many ethnic restaurants in America, but now Indian restaurants are only 30 minutes driving distance,” she said.

Vasavada left behind the business world to pursue her dream in the culinary world. She was a business developer at a tech start-up and, post her “Masterchef US” stint, is now treading the path of a “food consultant”.

“You get recognised at so many places and people say ‘Oh, you are the Indian girl from Masterchef’. Post the show, things have been wonderful because I get to pursue my passion as my career,” said Vasavada, who is pregnant with her first child and hopes to pen a cookery book post delivery.

Asked if hailing from the same state as Modi gets her more attention, she said that “a lot of time when I say I’m from Gujarat in India, people get excited and say ‘Oh… like the prime minister!’ And it does feel good”.

(IANS) (pic courtesy:


  1. They would call you the P word if your were a male. It seems the women of the Indian race are welcome but not the male. I was watching Masterchef UK and the two chefs, Rhuksmani, and Farshana did curry along with an East End white girl. The Chicken curry ran out immediately. The English girl just was not in the frame. Had an Indian man made curries they would have been told, like Hardeep Singh Kholi when he was on Masterchef, they could only cook curry and curry was not Michelin star material. I remember when we ran a stall and when my sisters held the stall, the white men swarmed like moths to a flame, When Indian men did the same curry and held the stall (same cook),people said we were garlic breath, curry munchers and f*ck off back to our country. The English are so duplicitous. The same thing happened when hip hop and rap were played in the common room by Indian men and the white students complained and the same said were in record stores searching for what we had played and they found so objectionable in the common room. When I went into hospital my mum used to bring in food from home as food always ran out. The White nurses, patients complained about the P*ki food, and smell of P8ki spices. I held a party for them after I recovered, and I thought the English do not like curry and spices as they had made my mum cry when they called us P*ki and chilli heads. They did not touch the English food, and went straight for the curry. Whilst calling us P*kis, and garlic breath. They asked why did you cook so little Indian curry and so few samosas? I said I thought you didn’t like Indian food as you made my mum cry for the smelly curry? They all could not look at me in the eye, or maybe it was my smelly garlic curry breath they didn’t like I had? One of the English nurses was so nice, she said to me, you were in hospital for 6 months, and towards the end when you got better, from a serious car accident you wore aftershave which she said told me I wanted to live again, and all the people white patients and majority of nurses complained, when upon leaving you gave it to Matt the white person next to you, who really looked after me, when he wore it people and the nurses said it was beautiful smelling. Then Matt said when Kubla wore it, you complained, and the patients, and most nurses, said you don’t ever want to praise or give accolades to an Indian. this sums up the most English.Some like Matt, and Linda the Nurse.


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How advertisements in India are defying gender cliche

Ads playing an effective medium in moulding opinions of society

How Indian advertisement industry is breaking the gender stereotype

Feb 27, 2017: The most important part of advertisements is the story line and it gives a spur on the social media when the lessons from the story line are timeless. Needless to say, every time a free-spirited ad is released, it not only sparks conversations over the internet but also leaves a viral trail of debates. Just in the same way, some of the Indian advertisements did when they strove to change the mindset of people with regard to gender difference. We often tend to slur women not realizing the essence of being a woman, it takes strength and an indomitable spirit to be a woman. This article will talk about how advertisements in India are leading by example and discarding gender difference.

Let’s recall some of the advertisements that did away with gender difference.

Nike’s recent ‘Da Da Ding’ ad starring Deepika Padukone as one among other female athletes is a powerful ad which got the people talking about giving importance to female athletes as well. It showcased females of a real athletic figure which is not animated and has got nothing to do with ‘legs and butts’.

(A still from Nike’s Da Da Ding advertisement)

The ad portrayed women as fierce and passionate about sports. Once upon a time, Nike’s product catered almost exclusively to marathon runners and then, a fitness craze emerged –and the folks in Nike’s marketing department knew where to mark their next move, an applause for Nike for initiating a spellbinding effort.

NewsGram brings to you latest new stories in India.

Whisper, Touch the pickle ad

(A still from Whisper Touch the pickle advertisement)

Whisper, Touch the pickle ad is another exemplary of breaking taboos surrounding women’s menstrual cycle. The whisper #Touchthepickle campaign makes an attempt to purge the baseless superstitions owing to Dos and Dont’s in menses. The ad showcases a young girl who dares to touch the pickle while she is on her periods. It conveys a sensible meaning to its viewers to break away these taboos. The ad was lauded internationally and awarded ‘Glass Lion Grand Prix’ award at Cannes International Festival of Creativity.

Many advertisements over the years have sold the cosmetic product but fewer have tried to change the societal conception of beauty. Even fewer have tried to do both, Joy Cosmetic is the brand that did it in India.

(A still from Joy beauty advertisement)
The ad begins with showcasing a well renowned oversized comedian, Bharti Singh asking the viewers “What did you expect, 36-24-36?”, and shuts down body shamers who presumed it to be an ideal body size. The ad conveys effortlessly that an Ideal beauty has nothing to do with body and shape.The advertisement has a sensitive message and is meaningful to its consumers.

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While there is a lot of chaos regarding section 377 in India, Ebay India took an audacious stance through its ad titled “Things don’t judge”.

(A still from Ebay India advertisement)

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Desi Girl: Nidhi Mahajan exists from Masterchef with some love and ‘Pranaams’

Nidhi Mahajan left a long-lasting impression on the judges for her "desi" gestures

Nidhi Mahajan. IANS
  • Nidhi Mahajan’s exit from the globally-renowned TV cooking show was an emotional affair
  • She found her way into Season Eight of “MasterChef Australia”, which is aired in India for her expertise in traditional Indian cooking
  • She has already set up a home-catering business and is taking cooking classes

August 29, 2016: From her fellow contestants to judges, she made everyone on the sets of “MasterChef Australia” fall in love with “desi” spices. Nidhi Mahajan, whose exit from the globally-renowned TV cooking show was an emotional affair, says Indian cuisine goes way beyond the misconceptions that people across the world have about it.

“I would love to tell people that there is nothing as massive as Indian cuisine and each dish, each ingredient, has a history behind it and how it became a part of our cuisine,” Nidhi told IANS in an email interview from Adelaide.

“Indian food has made its place on the global platform. People around the world love Indian food for its flavours and versatility,” added the former call centre employee, whose roots are in Chandigarh.

She found her way into Season Eight of “MasterChef Australia”, which is aired in India on Star World and Star World HD, for her expertise in traditional Indian cooking. She entered the kitchen with a mission to put the “desi” style of cooking on the global map.

Thus, among the dishes she cooked on the show were creamy lemon pepper chicken with paratha and potato wafers; Aussie Classic Indian Way (one episode required the contestants to use Australian elements like meat and three vegetables and give it a twist — so she gave it an Indian twist); goat curry with fried bread, cucumber raita and pickled onions; and tea-infused parfait, cornflake and ginger wine crumble.

Indian food might be finding a spot on the global palette, but there are still many misconceptions attached to it, said Nidhi, and many believe it is “very fattening, hot, oily and time-consuming. It is nothing like that, apart from the rich cuisines, if we talk about our daily, routine food it is not at all oily, hot or time-consuming.

“Indian food is just not about curries and tikkas. We have so many other dishes which are fermented, pickled, baked, sautéed and steamed.”

She left a long-lasting impression on the judges — Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris, and even world-renowned chef Marco Pierre White — for her “desi” gestures. Her decision to bow at the judges’ feet “as a mark of respect” after elimination brought everyone to tears.

“Doing a ‘Pranaam’ is what I have been taught by my parents. I have seen them bowing to their elders and people they respect. This is what I did,” she said.

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Nidhi, who shifted to South Australia’s Adelaide in 2013 with her husband, asserted that “desi” cuisine is quite popular on the show itself and that “people are crazy about Indian food and judges love Indian food”.

She first stepped into the kitchen to cook on her own when she was all of 12, and has been pursuing her love of cooking ever since. Nidhi looks up to chefs like Sanjeev Kapoor, Vikas Khanna, Jamie Oliver and the late Tarla Dalal.

Looking back at her culinary journey, Nidhi, who was called “The Curry Queen” on “MasterChef Australia”, said: “I was around 7 or 8 years old when I started helping my mother in the kitchen… the Kitchen has always been a place where I love to spend time.”

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Nidhi has degrees in commerce, accounting and finance; the TV show has given her a boost of positive energy. “My life has changed a lot. I feel more positive and confident in my abilities and I am living my dream life to have cooking as my profession.”

She has already set up a home-catering business and is taking cooking classes. A restaurant is in the pipeline and she hopes “to set it up by end of 2016 or start of 2017”.

She would also love to write a recipe book “but with a twist — the book will have recipes and also a story behind each recipe and my cooking journey”. (IANS)


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Locating Desi: A Survey to establish Identity

Political mobilization of the word 'desi' in USA

An Indian girl. Image Courtsey:

By Shubhi Mangla

Kerishma Panigrahi, a student of the New York University is pursuing studies in issues related to religion, race, racial subject formation mainly within the context of South Indian Diaspora. As part of her course, she is currently working on “Locating Latinidad“. The study includes tracing its history, genealogy and constitution as an identity. She has started a survey to know about the personal and political identification of people of South Asian descent in USA for folks who are 18 years or older.

You may take the survey here: Locating Desi

Kerishma says, “How I identify can shift as quickly and as easily as my surroundings shift; depending on where I am and who I’m with. I could be a Gujarati, Oriya, Indian(-American), South Asian(-American), American, desi, “brown”…the list goes on. What I became fascinated by was how intertwined and slippery racial, ethnic, and national identities are and how contingent they can be on one’s surroundings—which makes it even harder to effectively locate”.

What complicated her was the word ‘Desi’. According to her, it is a word which she can feel closer to and politically identify herself with it. With her experience from living among other South Asians in US, she feels that ‘desi’ is more of an informal and comfortable word as compared to South Asian-American. She is curious to know the experience of other folks of South Asian decent about the non-existent  political mobilization of the word ‘Desi’ compared to mobilization of ‘latinx’.

Related link: Indian Diaspora in Holland

According to her, ” ‘Desi’ is also an imperfect term and there are shortcomings that may take away from people’s ability to identify with it; does “desi” have the ability to expand and accommodate this difference? Is there a disparity of identification along age group, migration status, country of origin, multiracial status? How does multiple diaspora (e.g. folks of Indo-Caribbean or Indo-African heritage) effect identification?”

Report prepared by Shubhi Mangla- an intern at Newsgram and a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi. Twitter @ shubhi_mangla