Vikas Khanna (left), Kunal Kapoor (centre) and Zorawar Kalra will judge MasterChef India's season 5, starting today. Image Credit: Star Plus

If you thought of cooking just as a hobby, then you probably wouldn’t have qualified for MasterChef India’s season 5, which goes on air on today.

The popular Indian television culinary fight – and its judges – have decided to take it up a notch higher this year. The drama, they say, will now lie in the food instead of the maker.

“This season of MasterChef India is just amazing. I think we have grown together with our viewers. The markets, the information, the cookbooks, the chefs’ influence and the mind of home cooks have evolved with time,” Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna – who is judging the show this season with former judge Kunal Kapoor and new entrant Zorawar Kalra – told tabloid!.

“There is so much more global influence and yet much deeper cuisines and regional research on the show. We will bring something new in the challenge, like an ancient cooking technique or a dish, as an inspiration. We also have contestants from Dubai, New Jersey, San Francisco, London and lot of Indian cities, which will add an amazing level of different perspective in cooking and culinary thinking,” continued Khanna.

With renowned chef Sanjeev Kapoor stepping away from the show this year, Khanna has more or less taken the place of the lead judge but he disagrees and says all three will take the stage “mutually and equally”.

“I think just standing with Kunal and Zorawar every day is an honour in itself. We all think, breathe, live food and on this stage we all decide everything together,” he said. “Chef Sanjeev Kapoor will always be my mentor and guide, any time I need information or research or clarification, all I need to do is pick up the phone and call him. Kunal is like my younger brother, we have both grown on the show together and appreciate the influence of the platform mutually. I have been inspired by Jiggs Kalra [Zorawar’s father and well known chef] all my life, and Zorawar in not only continuing the legacy, he has taken it forward in the most sophisticated and honorable way”.

The concept of the show is also moving from just being tasty food to creating sophisticated, international cuisine.

“Food is dramatic – the bubbling of the curry or how the soufflé rises or the soft centre that oozes out, or the crunch of a papad or popping of popcorn, is what will bring in the drama this year,” said Kapoor, who missed the last season. “At the same time, we are doing some very innovative and creative challenges. We have a mixed set of contestants, from 19 to 69 years of age. [We will be visiting] several locations outside India, which will be interesting too. So it’s a pretty in depth look into food that we will do”.

The show plans to go further east to south east Asia, to places still undisclosed. However, Dubai, is not one of the show’s destinations at the moment, despite the fact that all three judges have a strong culinary presence in the city with Junoon (Khanna), Patiala (Kapoor) and the recently opened Farzi Café (Kalra). At the same time even though there were hundreds who participated at the Dubai auditions only one selection was made.

“[Our presence in Dubai] makes it more interesting for Dubai viewers I guess. I’m very fond of Dubai. I enjoy the fact that the show is widely watched in Dubai not just by the Indian diaspora, but the locals too because Dubai has a very close affinity to India,” said Kalra.

The selection of contestants has been different this year. It was no longer about being a great cook, says Kalra.

“If you mess up on the day [of the audition], it’ll cost you,” Kalra said. “It only depends on how much value [the contestant] would have added to the show”.

This series will see Indian food but with a lot of reinventions, use of advanced fusion techniques and molecular gastronomy, use of raw food, along with global cuisine. Traditional, including regional Indian food will be given a modern twist, promise the judges.

“We are going to show you Indian food that does not exist in any restaurants as yet. The show must be a reflection of society. If the society is going towards, say, modern Indian or fusion food, then we should show that on the show because a lot of top restaurants in the world are presenting food with multiple focal points,” said Kalra, who will also be mentoring the participants on the various nuances of food business, to make them understand that a restaurant business is not a hobby.

“This year, one of the main things that we are looking at is the story behind the food you cook. Let’s say, someone says ‘I’ve combined beetroot with yoghurt’, my question is ‘why did you do it? Is there a real reason why you are doing it or just that it’ll look really fancy?’” said Kapoor. “Or the dish could have been inspired by a certain product or ingredient or way of cooking the person experienced during his travels. So, right from the combination of ingredients and why it has been created in a certain way, there has to be a thought to it. What we are telling them is as home cooks who plan to become a masterchef you need to have a certain outcome in your head and work backwards for it. Even though there are chances that you still won’t achieve what you’ve envisaged, you can at least pinpoint where you went wrong and what didn’t work. So it’s easier next time to fix the problem”.

Khanna says being on MasterChef India for four consecutive seasons has been “extremely gratifying” as he watched it evolve, with this season being one of the most challenging.

“I was so nervous to host the show in season 2, that I almost flew back to New York. I felt I was never made for TV in anyway because being in the kitchen is safe, healing and meditative, and TV is infinite,” Khanna said. “But things changed and I stayed back. I have seen the nation change, its kitchens change, the way young kids talk about food change – they speak so proudly of becoming a chef now. Markets have changed – almost everything is available in India now. I think the show has evolved tremendously. When I look at MasterChef India, I feel so proud – like a parent of a child who is creating a legacy”.


“This season the contestants will get to work with amazing chefs from all over the world, new challenges and most importantly new techniques in a foreign lands. Glocal means that there will be a global influence on local way of kitchens and also local flavours will be applied to global cuisines”.

— Vikas Khanna

“Social media is maturing. It’s picking up serious subjects such as politics, lifestyle, health, food. A lot of the times when you put up videos of food, they are just entertaining. But for people who are really passionate about food and cooking, these small videos go a long way. Even I watch videos of other chefs and sometimes derive my ideas from there”.

— Kunal Kapoor

“It is very relevant in today’s time to show what the world is eating. People seem to be getting over simplistic, traditional Indian restaurants. I believe the way this season of MasterChef India has been structured is very relevant and this is what will make it so cool”.

— Zorawar Kalra

Don’t miss it

MasterChef India Season 5 will air on STAR Plus every Saturday and Sunday at 8pm from October 1.