In an exclusive interview to Restaurant India, Diana Chan talks about her first India debut and designing menu for the Mumbai restaurant.
After winning MasterChef Australia season 9 in 2017, Diana Chan became an overnight sensation in both Australia where she has shifted her base and her home land Malaysia. Her love for cooking stems from her upbringing in Malaysia. Her parents are both great cooks and as a kid Chan would stand by the kitchen helping them prep for dinner every night. “Whether it was peeling onions or picking herbs it was always a novelty to be able to actually stir the pot,” laughs Chan who is quite popular for her mystery box ingredients at the show. “Since I moved out of home at 17, I've had to be independent and cook for myself,” shares Chan who was so spoilt for good food and led to the sparking of cooking in her.
Born in Malaysia and residing in Australia. How is your cooking style complementing these countries?
I am so lucky to be living in Australia as I think the produce here is second to none. Australia has some of the best seafood, vegetables and meat available globally. I combine this with the techniques I learnt through my parents and flavours I grew up eating in Malaysia. I usually adapt my cooking style to the produce and ingredients found in the country I live in.
There is lots of awareness about fresh ingredients and farm to food concept. How did it inspire you?
Cooking with fresh and local ingredients is very important to get the best quality dishes. The farm to food concept would be the ideal scenario however living in the world we live in now may not be possible on a day to day basis. I do love the concept as I think there is nothing better than eating from the ground with produce free from pesticides and chemicals. Organic always tastes better.
How Masterchef Australia acted as a game changer for you?
Masterchef Australia has given me the platform to forge my career and I have taken it and run with it. I still pinch myself every day I wake up as I look forward to a brand new and exciting day each day. I thank my lucky stars for the opportunities that have come from winning and that I am able to pursue food as my career. Nothing beats working hard for what you are truly passionate about.
What according to you is a wholesome, balanced and delicious meals incorporating fusion?
To me a wholesome, balanced and delicious meal isn't about eating a bowl of kale salad. It's about having a balanced meal with ingredients that are fresh and healthy but also having the naughty things in life like a glass of wine with your meal or butter because it makes things taste so good. I am and have always been a big believer in exercise. I truly believe that what goes in must come out. So, even though I cook and eat all the time I find the time to head to the gym a few times a week to work off the food I consume. Fusion flavours is my way of incorporating local ingredients with a different cuisine or mixing two different cuisines together to create something better. It will not work if it doesn't taste better that it would traditionally so I think you have to spend time and be creative and sometimes it happens when you least expect it. I've tried recipes where I just winged it and was very happy with the outcome.
Tell us about your partnership with Wine Villa? What will be your contribution to the restaurant menu design?
I am so stoked to be working with Wine Villa. I have created a specially designed menu for them to suit the wines that they are serving. Wine Villa is an innovative wine bar in Juhu, Mumbai that will serve over 100 varieties of wines on tap from across the globe. They have a system called the wine ATM so seeing that drinking wine is a fairly new trend in India, it gets customers to try the wine by the glass rather than having to buy a whole bottle. It gives people the option to try before you buy kind of thing. I think this is genius and especially brave of the two owners, Micky and Roopanshi to get into this space.
What kind of menu design it would be? Are you planning to incorporate your international travel experiences into it?
When Wine Villa approached me to design the menu I couldn't be more delighted. It is a real honour and I've created 15 dishes to start off with which incorporates fusion flavours of European, Indian and Malaysian cuisine. There should be something for everyone. I have also created some vegetarian dishes as I know it is big in India.
As the concept is based on wine. How are you planning to pair your food right with the wine?
Being a wine drinker myself and I am by no means a connoisseur, I have given suggestions about the wines I think my dishes will pair with. It ranges from light and sparkling wines to a heavy red. I think food pairs beautifully with wine and I hope the locals will embrace it.
What is your plan opening a restaurant of your own going forward?
I have a pop up restaurant at the moment in Melbourne called Chanteen which ends mid August. As for a permanent restaurant, there are plans to open a site in the future but as for now I am focusing on a few other exciting projects which involve a lot of travel. Keep following me on social media (instagram: @diana.chan.au) for any updates.