Ash and Simran represent ”˜Team India’ on Channel 7’s ”˜Plate of Origin’

By Neeru Saluja

They are ready to cook up a cultural storm in the kitchen as the husband-wife duo represent ”˜Team India’ on Channel 7’s ”˜Plate of Origin’.

IT specialist Ash and his wife Simran who is an actress and model have been married for 14 years. They are the proud parents to two young children. As they share their passion of cooking together, will it be the spice in their marriage or the spice on their plate that will make them win?

Read my interview with them to know more!

Tell us about the audition process and what made you participate in ”˜Plate of Origin’?

Ash: The audition process was a very long and gruesome ordeal. We were competing against many teams from India to get selected and we were lucky to be chosen. It was very hard and involved lot of long hours and audition time from the Network where they were coming in to taste our food and test our culinary skills in the kitchen. People don’t understand getting through was not an easy task and we have been cooking for a long time for our kids.

Simran: The passion came from our roots. We are hard core Indian kids who pretty much grew up outside India. Our parents are our inspiration, and the aroma and spices that came from the Indian kitchen we grew up in. We also wanted to show Australia that Indian cuisine is not just butter chicken, which is British.

What do you think are the other misconceptions about Indian cuisine within Australia?

Ash: The biggest misconception people have about our food that it’s just not about curries. People think it’s spicy and unhealthy. We try to break that stereotype in the show. We did not want to give up our spices but create dishes that are healthy. For example, reducing the amount of oil or replacing plain flour with healthier versions like chickpea flour.

Simran, being a health and fitness fanatic ”“ will you also be highlighting the health and nutritional benefits of our Indian spices and super foods?

Simran: Absolutely. I want to break the notion that Indian food is unhealthy and is a comfort food. It is a comfort food but it’s also all about flavours. Spices like turmeric are so good to combat inflammation which was a normal way of healing ourselves when we were kids. Growing up in an Indian household, we always used our super foods like ginger, turmeric and garlic in our daily cooking that have amazing health benefits.

As a nation, we are diverse in our culture and cuisine. Will your plate of India capture this diversity?

Ash: We do capture this diversity. Different cultures, different languages, different states ”“ that’s what makes India. We kept this in mind when we created our recipes and the audience will be able to see this.

As both of you have been cooking since you were young, what does it mean to you?

Ash: For me, cooking is therapeutic. I started cooking since my college days as it was a stress reliever. I like to go into the kitchen and create a dish with all the ingredients we have.

Simran: Coming from the entertainment industry, it’s all about creativity and presentation. That is something that comes out in my cooking. When I cook, I do it with 100 per cent of passion. Indians are not good with presenting food. I like to make my food more appetising, be it a simple daal and roti. I try to make everything look nice and when you put in your mouth it has to taste even better. People say ”˜what you eat is what you are’ and that’s what resonates with us.

So what will be your USP on the show ”“ the spice in your marriage or the spice on your plate?

Simran and Ash: The spice in our marriage! We were the only couple amongst the team. We have been married for 14 years now. The camaraderie, the love, the passion that we both have for the same thing, you will see that in our cooking. It will be a husband and wife cooking together with love.

We also want to break the barrier where we want to open the eyes of specially the elder generation where men don’t enter the kitchen. The message is for the younger generation that women and men are equal and both can cook.

It must have been such a great experience to work with MasterChefs like Gary Mehigan, Manu Fieldel and Matt Preston. Can you share some memorable moments with our readers?

Simran: It was truly an amazing experience. Our judges have been in the industry since 30-35 years. I had a great time connecting with all of them, specially Gary who is known as the godfather of Indian food. He knows Indian cuisine so well and we could not twist anything in another way.

Ash: An example would be chaat masala. It has 7-8 spices that makes it and Gary knows all the spices that goes in it. He knew exactly what was missing in a dish. You will see the teams representing their culture and country, not fighting for anything. This is what makes Australia, it’s a melting pot of various cultures. We are very proud of our culture and heritage and that is what we are going to bring to the table.

Before our readers follow you on your journey on Plate of Origin, is there something you would like to convey to them?

Ash: Nobody has represented India on a cooking show as a team on mainstream channels before. This is our time to unite together and show that we are supporting each other.

Simran: I’m very patriotic and am proud to represent our country via this show. To add on to what Ash said, I want to share that Indian cooking is very complicated. It has a lot of twists and turns. It is not easy when you are cooking in another kitchen. Kitchens are like monsters when it’s not yours. Going into a competition is not an easy task. I also wanted to change the perception that as women we are multitaskers – you can walk the ramp and cook in the kitchen.

We wish ”˜Team India’ the best in their journey! You can follow them on Instagram @plateteamindia. Plate of Origin starts on Sunday 30 August, 7pm on Channel 7.



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