Though still a month away, we at the School can hardly wait for our very first masterclass with MasterChef Winner 2010, and chef proprietor of The Jolly Gardneners, Dhruv Baker. Dhruv brings his unique heritage, experience and perspective literally to the table, making his upcoming class on 18th September one not-to-be-missed! Recently we sat down with Dhruv to find out a little bit more about what propels his drive in the kitchen.
SOW: You lived several different places growing up, what was it that got you interested in food?
As a child I always loved food and was always curious as to how food became the finished dish from the ingredients at the start. The combination of curiosity and loving food is a healthy start! That coupled with the fact I was fortunate enough to be born in Mexico then raised in India, meant I was always surrounded by the most incredible smells and flavours!
SOW: How did you decide to take that interest and pursue a competition-style cooking nationally aired show? Quite the bold move!
I was actually talked into applying by my wife! I was whinging about being bored at work one day and she called me up and said "instead of moaning about being bored do something constructive and apply for MasterChef... " so I did!
SOW: How has being the MasterChef Winner since influenced your career? Are you still in touch with any of the other chefs, John or Greg?
It's completely changed my career. I went from being sales director of a media sales firm to owning a restaurant, a catering company, releasing my first cook book, various brand projects, writing for food magazines and some food related tv. It allowed me to make my passion my career! I see my co-finalists (we have stayed in touch with each other and love catching up) and see Gregg from time to time. I see more of John as we have become good friends since MasterChef.
SOW: Much like most of our chefs at the school, you're a career changer and found food after having a totally separate career. Do you feel this has helped or hindered your experience as a chef and how?
A bit of both but in balance has helped massively. Having an understanding of how finance and business work has been invaluable as has a knowledge of marketing. It's hindered it in the sense I wish I was 10 years younger - it's pretty hard on the feet!
What's your go-to midweek meal?
I have so many but this week it's all been about fish. Ready in minutes, light, delicious and perfect for summer evenings. Whether it's garlic prawns with tagliatelle or pan fried bream with a lovely fennel and turmeric butter!
SOW: What do you think is the most useful skill to master in the kitchen?
Organisation and the ability to think on your feel and adapt!
SOW: What chef, dead or alive, real or fictional, would you like to cook with?
I could go on for hours but I'll keep it simple and limit it to 2: My mothers uncle who wrote a book many many years ago which I still cook from "cooking delights of the maharajahs." Keith Floyd - his infectious passion for cooking was an early inspiration.
SOW: What advice would you give for those looking to enter the food industry? Is owning your own restaurant (The Jolly Gardeners) different than you had imagined it being?
I would say learn from your mistakes; don't take knock-backs personally; be prepared to work extremely long hours for very little financial reward in the early days. Most importantly remember why you went into the industry in the first place - never forget your love of food and passion for cooking. It's a joy to feed people and when things are difficult try and remember that.
SOW:Last meal on earth?
I've never been able to answer this and been 100% satisfied with the answer but... A huge fruits de mer with a spiced garlic butter followed by a porterhouse steak with bearnaise sauce. I'm not a massive dessert fan but I'm a sucker for a rum baba (oh, then cheese!).
Thanks so much Dhruv! We can't wait to see you in September! Click here to snap up your chance to glean more wise advice, amazing flavour combinations, and tips for the kitchen, plus the chance to sit down over a glass of wine and eat drink and be merry with Dhruv himself.