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Assam girl makes it to young chef finals

- 18-year-old heads for London

Guwahati, Sept. 21: A “chance entry” has taken 18-year-old Diksha Choudhury all the way to the London finals of the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM) Young Chef India Schools, 2012 contest to be held on Monday.

The Class XII student of Faculty HS School, Amingaon, is among the eight from the country to make it to the final round of the contest.

Diksha, who says she is not a foodie but is passionate about cooking, will be required to rustle up a three-course Indian meal in two-and-a-half hours in the grand finale to be held at the University of West London, Ealing.

The young chef will prepare fish roll as starters, paratha and chicken curry as the main course, and kamala (orange) kheer as dessert. But why not masor tenga or aloo pitika (mashed potato)?

“It would have been great to prepare traditional Assamese dishes. But the decision was taken in favour of North Indian food as it is spicy, known worldwide and the UK-based judges would have a fair idea of it. Masor tenga, though tasty, may not tickle their tastebuds. But Diksha can at least present the dish in a xorai,” said Pratim Hazarika, the centre head of IAM Institute of Hotel Management, where the Guwahati prelims of the contest were held.

Diksha had cleared the preliminary round in her school to be nominated to the Guwahati prelims last month.

The prelims were held in eight IIHM centres in the country last month with participants from 1,400 schools. One contestant was selected from each centre for the London finals. However, only seven contestants will participate in the finals as one contestant has dropped out for personal reasons.

“In the Guwahati prelims, where students from six schools took part, we had to rustle up paratha, chicken curry and gajar halwa,” the girl from Uzan Bazar said.

She is a tad nervous about the finals but confident of impressing the three-member jury in the UK.

“I couldn’t believe my luck when I got the news. I had entered the contest without expectations, but now I’m determined to make an impression. Celebrity chef Shaun Kenworthy will be in the jury. I have heard that Gordon Ramsay might make it too. So, I’m a tad nervous,” she told The Telegraph, minutes before heading to the LGBI airport with her parents, Santanu and Sangeeta Choudhury, this afternoon.

Diksha, who has never been to a cooking school but makes sure not to miss Fabulous Cakes and Nigella Kitchen on TLC, says she owes whatever she has learnt over the past four years to her mother.

“I am indebted to my mother for passing on my aita (grandmother)’s legacy to me. She has taught me both Indian and Continental. My school, too, has played a role in this feat,” she said.

The bubbly girl is now in two minds on whether to study mass media or hotel management, but who knows? The grand finale might help clinch her choice of career.

Can she grab the first prize, which comprises a trophy, Rs 5 lakh and a monthlong cooking course in IIHM, Calcutta? “She can if she gets it all right. At the prelims, I found her presentation and balance of flavours excellent, but there were chinks in her technique,” said chef Rahul Baruah, one of the judges in the Guwahati round.

As a token of love from Assam, Diksha is taking gamosas and tea for her British hosts. “She is taking tea from my father’s garden (Bhergaon tea estate) and gamosas to London,” an excited Sangeeta said.