QUEANBEYAN resident and Masterchef alumni Rishi Desai's "food dream" continues to live on as he prepares to launch of his first cook book, Modern Indian.
The book is a collection of more than 70 recipes which spans from the basics like the perfect naan bread to more complicated dishes like a fish curry in a bowl. The author's signature dish, slow-cooked Kolhapuri goat with cauliflower puree and papapdums, is also featured.
Mr Desai's recipes, which were composed over a six-month period from his Queanbeyan kitchen, stay true to the traditional flavours of the cuisine but apply different cooking techniques.
An example is the aforementioned fish curry in a bowl which features perfectly poached salmon with a curry-flavoured puree served with deep fried wild rice.
"People think 'modern Indian' is fusion but I don't think so. I'm not going to combine Indian flavours with Italian or French or Chinese for that matter. Every flavour is unique and I want to keep it the way it is," he said.
"My take on modern food is introducing different textures into the dish and using different techniques."
Mr Desai hopes his book will change the public's perception of Indian food one recipe at a time. He wants people to explore the cuisine beyond that old-time favourite, butter chicken.
"When people think of Indian food, the first thing that comes to their mind is: butter chicken. Everyone loves butter chicken and I do as well. There's nothing wrong with butter chicken," he said.
"But, for me, Indian food is more than that ... it's about featuring those hidden gems, hidden recipes, hidden foods from all around India. I've tried to feature that in the book, I've got dishes from south, north and east India and the west side where I come from."
Mr Desai has had a successful run after being a semi-finalist on the fifth series of Masterchef. He ran a number of pop-up dinners at The Burbury Hotel, Canberra late last year and toured India as a guest of Tourism Australia.
These days he's still works at IP Australia while juggling his culinary aspirations on the side. Things haven't slowed down, he's wife has already requested he work on his next cook book - something to cater to vegetarians like herself.
Mr Desai will begin promotion for his book which will include an appearance on Channel 10's Everyday Gourmet hosted by another fellow former-Masterchef contestant, Justine Schofield.
Locally, residents can see him in action at the Canberra Truffle Festival on July 6.
"I'm doing a master class along with a lunch. That lunch is something that's really ambitious," he said.
"I'm not sure if a lot of people have tried it or not, but I'm combining Indian food and black truffles."
Ultimately, Mr Desai would love to open an Indian restaurant one day.
"The dream is still there. I still want to open a restaurant, I'm just not sure where yet," he said.
"We haven't figured out if it will be in Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne or maybe, even India. It's something I'm working on."
Earlier this week, former-Masterchef contestant Jules Allen spoke to ABC's Australian Story about the highs and lows of being part of a reality television show.
Mr Desai, who featured in the same series as Allen and finished in the top four, agreed that the competition was very tough.
"We used to have days where we started at 4am and finished 10 or 11pm at night but that's sort part and parcel of the game," he said.
"You are sort of expected to know, before you sign up on the contract, that this is sort of going to happen."
However, he ultimately saw the show as a launching pad into the industry.
"Everybody has a different expectation for Masterchef. My expectation was to get as many techniques and knowledge from the judges and the other contestants as possible," he said.
"I can't talk about Jules' expectations but for me I wanted to go there, learn as much as I could and make a lot of connections and implement those things for what I want to do in the future.
"Masterchef was amazing for me. It was absolutely brilliant."
Win a signed copy of Rishi's book!
The Queanbeyan Age has a copy of Rishi Desai's Modern Indian to giveaway to one lucky reader.
To be in the running to win, just email your name, address and contact number to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Modern Indian" in the subject line by close of business Friday, June 20.
Only one entry per household will be accepted. The winner will be randomly drawn and will need to pick up their prize from the Queanbeyan Age office at 108 Monaro St, Queanbeyan.