Masterchef Australia season 10 premieres tonight.  a chat with guest judge Adam D’Sylva

Adam D’Sylva has been named Australia’s Young Chef of the Year twice, owns two restaurants Down Under and employs more than 40 chefs to churn out Indian food with a twist. 

By Priyanka Roy
  • Published 10.09.18

Adam D’Sylva has been named Australia’s Young Chef of the Year twice, owns two restaurants Down Under and employs more than 40 chefs to churn out Indian food with a twist. The 39-year-old chef, who owns the popular Melbourne restaurants Coda and Tonka, is a guest judge on Season 10 of MasterChef Australia that premieres on Indian television tonight (Monday to Friday at 9pm on STAR World and STAR World HD). 
t2 chatted with D’Sylva on his MasterChef experience and how being 
half-Indian has influenced his food journey.  

Was the experience of being a guest judge on MasterChef Australia as exciting as you had expected it to be?

Oh, 100 per cent! It’s a show I have loved watching and I think the critique on the show is of the highest quality. To have some kind of a say in who progresses to the next round of such a great competition was quite fulfilling. Also, to have the contestants cook in my restaurants was an honour. 

MasterChef has versions all over the world, including India. What do you think makes MasterChef Australia so popular?

I think it has a lot to do with how the show has been crafted. It has amazing challenges. Also, it’s filmed in Australia that has a diversity of cuisines and cultures and produce… the contestants are diverse and represent different food cultures, which I think very few other countries have. That invariably finds its way into the show. 

Growing up, what fuelled your love and passion for food?

My mother’s Italian and my father’s Indian and I grew up in Australia. I’ve had a very strong influence of various cultures. Looking back as a kid, I remember a bowl of curry on the table… my mom making salami and growing every kind of vegetable under the sun.

Six nights a week we would have curry with a big bowl of basmati rice. I would often have curry followed by pasta. My dad was a butcher and I started helping out in the kitchen at a very early age. 

Gnocchi was perhaps the first thing I made as a kid and I quickly discovered I had a passion for cooking. I decided to follow my heart and make it my profession. I love the fact that I get to cook for people and they enjoy my food.    

Adam D’Sylva (extreme left) on MasterChef Australia

The food that you whip up in your restaurants is largely Asian. What’s been the challenge of showcasing Indian cuisine worldwide as just not being limited to biryani and chicken tikka masala?

I don’t think I can take any credit for changing people’s perceptions about Indian food, but I do try to make versions of Indian dishes that are less stodgy. Curries are very popular all over the world, and that’s what people like. My attempt is to make something that’s fresh using local produce and yet imparting an innate Indian taste to it. I also try and pay homage to some popular Indian dishes. 

Are there any Bengali dishes that you have experimented with in the kitchen?

I have chefs from all over India in my restaurants and we do have Bengali curry on our menu. I have dishes in the restaurant that are made using betel leaf, which I know is popular in east India.  

What is your plan with respect to food over the next five years?

Since I have done quite a bit with Indian food, I would try looking at an Italian restaurant next. If someone from India approached me to open something in India — or at least go and cook something there — I would be more than happy. 


Comfort food

Gnocchi in a kind of Italian hotpot. 

A dish I can whip up in minutes

Spaghetti aglio olio.

An underrated ingredient

Anchovies. We don’t use it as much as we should. Also, chilli.

A dish I can eat every day of the year

I can name cuisines… and that would be Indian, Japanese, Italian… I love chilli in my food.

One reason I am looking forward to MasterChef Australia Season 10 is... Tell