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‘I cook Bangali food to preserve my heritage, not because I can’t cook other cuisines,’ says Kishwar Chowdhury of MasterChef Australia

Kishwar Chowdhury in an episode of MasterChef Australia Season 13. Source: Supplied by Network 10

The first Bangali-Australian to compete in MasterChef Australia, Kishwar Chowdhury was born to a Bangladeshi father and Indian mother. While her parents succeeded in passing on their Bangali legacy to her, she wants to pass it on to the future generations, through MasterChef Australia and probably, a cookbook.

Kishwar Chowdhury, 38, was born in Australia to Bangali parents.

Her father Kamrul Hossain Chowdhury is a prominent businessman and social worker in Melbourne. A former freedom fighter of the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, he was conferred with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2019.

Apart from these achievements, Kishwar has also taken inspiration from him in the culinary arena, as she has from her mother, Laila.


Highlights:

  • Kishwar Chowdhury, of Bangladeshi-Indian descent, is a contender for MasterChef Australia’s Season 13
  • She learned about Bangali cuisine from her parents, wants to pass on legacy to kids
  • Kishwar dreams about writing a cookbook to preserve her Bangali heritage

“I have been cooking since childhood. Both my parents cook very well. My father is from Bikrampur in Greater Dhaka and my mother is from Kolkata, India. They came to Australia in the 1970s,” she tells SBS Bangla.

“From then on, they have always eaten Bangali food at home to preserve their heritage,” adds Kishwar.

Upholding Bangali heritage

At least one meal in the Chowdhury household comprises Bangali food, which is prepared by her parents.

“We have dinner together. That’s how I learned to cook. We made a lot of sweets, cakes; since I was born in Australia, we ate a lot of different foods,” says Kishwar referring to her siblings and parents in Australia.

Kishwar Chowdhury with her mother Laila Chowdhury and daughter Seraphina.
Kishwar Chowdhury with her mother Laila Chowdhury and daughter Seraphina.
Network 10

Encouraged by 11-year-old son

Kishwar entered MasterChef Australia’s 13th season mainly because of her son’s encouragement. Others around her also told her that she cooks well, just as did her own heart.

“My son Mikayle would always tell me, ‘mom, you should go to MasterChef. You cook very well. You cook a lot of different food. You can do everything. Why don’t you try’,” she tells SBS Bangla.

Handing the baton to future generations

Kishwar’s family runs a business of printing and packaging, which kept her very busy before she went for MasterChef.

“At the time of the lockdown last year, I thought that my parents have been in Australia for so long. They wanted us to keep their cooking, language, food, art, culture alive."

“While they were successful in achieving this, I feel strongly about whether I can leave all this for my own kids,” she says.

Kishwar said her friends in the US, the UK and other countries also feel the same.

“Can we pass it on to the future generations,” she wonders.

“I have been cooking since childhood. Both my parents cook very well. My father is from Bikrampur in Greater Dhaka and my mother is from Kolkata, India."
“I have been cooking since childhood. Both my parents cook very well. My father is from Bikrampur in Greater Dhaka and my mother is from Kolkata, India."
Supplied by Network 10

Dreams of a cookbook

Kishwar’s thoughts about passing on Bangali heritage to future generations have often filtered down to the idea of writing a cookbook.

“When my kids grow up, they must make the choice that, yes, it was my heritage, my maternal and paternal grandparents’ heritage. Let them get this thing from me. And for that reason, I always wanted to write a cookbook, so that my children and those of my friends, can hold it and be proud that, yes, it is my culture,” she says.

“My dream was very small, of writing a cookbook. That’s what I want to leave behind--our food, our culture or the way we think about food,” Kishwar explains.

Does she only cook Bangali food?

Kishwar says that the judges as well as other contestants in MasterChef are very curious about Bangali cuisine.

“They were very interested to know what Bangali food is. They had never heard, seen, or understood how different our food profile was,” she says.

But Kishwar’s cooking is not limited to Bangali cuisine, she says.

“The question is, ‘oh, can she cook anything but curry?’ A misconception is being created,” she says.

“If I don’t cook goat rezala, who else will cook it here,” she asks referring to a goat curry that she cooked in a recent episode of MasterChef Australia.

“I wanted to cook Bangali food because no one else on this platform can cook this special cuisine except me. That was my wish, but it doesn’t mean I can’t cook anything else,” she reasons.

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