Exclusive: Hyderabad’s Amjad Lala’s journey in MasterChef India 7

Mumbai: The cooking competition show ‘ MasterChef’ offers professional and home cooks a platform to showcase their culinary skills and make a successful career as a chef. The reality show is currently airing its season 7 and it is telecasted from Monday to Friday at 9 PM on Sony TV and their streaming service Sony LIV.  

Celebrity chefs Vikas Khanna, Ranveer Brar and Garima Arora are the judges of MasterChef India season 7. The show returned after a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The premiere episode saw several contestants presenting their best dish in front of the judges who selected only top 36 talents. These contestants competed with each other to make it to the top 16.

This year we saw various contestants make it tough for the judges to choose the best among them as most of them served mouth-watering dishes. But what grabbed the eyeballs of everyone at the show was authentic ‘Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani’ made by a home cook from Hyderabad Syed Amjad Ullah alias Amjad Lala.  

The judges usually take a small bite of the dish served by any contestant to judge it. But viewers were taken by surprise when they saw Vikas, Garima and Ranveer having a ‘full feast’ when Amjad Lala served them traditional Hyderabadi Biryani with a spicy and robust gravy. The judges appreciated Amjad’s culinary skills and admired the taste of the lip-smacking dish, he served. In an exclusive interview with Siasat.com, Amjad Lala throws light on his journey to MasterChef India and about learning cooking skills.

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How does it feel to be among the top 36 contestants of India?

Well, I think being in the top 36 and representing Hyderabad is a happy moment for me. I really enjoyed my journey until I reached the top 36.  I think it was fun altogether. MasterChef is a great platform to show one’s capabilities, skills and talent. I really enjoyed it.

How did the passion for cooking spark inside you?

I used to help my mother with cooking. She used to say, ”Kabhi tadka laga do, kabhi do this, do that” and that is how I got into cooking. I learned everything from basic to advance cooking from my mother. My grandmother taught my mother, she taught me and I am teaching my kids too.

What made you choose this profession?

From cooking at home to big restaurants, I developed an interest in playing with spices. I worked for 30 years in the middle east. I worked in Saudi Arabia mainly. For some time, I worked in London, France and Lebanon also. For the last five years, I was working for the Zahid Group of Companies. After corona broke out, I came back to Hyderabad and started a home kitchen here.

How did you reach MasterChef India Season 7?

It happened all of a sudden. I was having my breakfast in front of St. Anna’s college and I noticed a sudden rush around the college. When I asked a passerby about the rush around the college, he told me that auditions for MasterChef India season 7 are going to take place inside the premises. It was not planned. I just thought to showcase my skill to the judges in the audition. I stood in a queue for hours. Around 700 people participated in the audition. At one point I was like I should not stand in the queue but for the sake of passion, I waited until my turn came. So, the rest is history. Judges got impressed by my performance and I would thank MasterChef for providing me with a chance to show my culinary skills.

What are you planning next?

I want to open a world-class culinary academy in Hyderabad. I will present a proposal to the Telangana CM KCR for the same. The food and Beverage industry is very vast and I would love to teach people cooking.

Your Instagram bio reads that you are owner at Paigah. Tell us more about it?

Paigah is basically my catering company and I sell only Biryani these days. I used to sell Arabic Kabsa and Afghani Pulao also. I usually serve people during pre and post-wedding events.

The reaction of the judges was amazing when you served Briyani to them. How do you feel?

I was very confident that judges will like my Biryani. In current times, in the name of Biryani, most of the restaurants are selling only ‘laal peelay chawal.’ Authentic Hyderabadi Biryani is served at very rare places. I wanted judges to taste the real traditional Biryani of Hyderabad and I am happy that I succeeded in my mission.

They forgot the spoons just after smelling the Biryani and tasted it with their hands in a traditional Hyderabadi way. Ungliyan chaat te reh gaye! Alhamdullilah!

What made one of the judges term your Biryani a ‘Ghazal’?

I took all the spices, mutton and other ingredients used to make Biryani from Hyderabad itself. There are a lot of secret spices I used to make this traditional delicacy. You know Biryani is an emotion for Hyderabadis, who naak hai hamari and the one I made at MasterChef show left judges in awe. Chef Ranveer said, “Yeh sirf Biryani nahi, poori Ghazal hai.”

Message

I would like to share an experience with you all. Initially, when I was waiting in the long queue for the auditions, I was feeling anxious. I was thinking to myself, “What if I don’t get selected?” But, somehow I mustered courage to go through with it and in the end, I made everyone fall in love with the Biryani I served.

So, my message to everyone out there is, don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Do your best and don’t be afraid to try, even if things don’t work out. There is no harm in giving it a shot.