You’d remember Sandeep Pandit from MasterChef Australia Season 11 as the one who whipped up a South Indian Prawn Curry that had the judges floored.

He reminisces about his childhood days in Kashmir, where his early memories of cooking were shaped.

“Mealtimes were big affairs,” he recounts. “We would sit down on huge carpets, and I remember those times as feasting accompanied by laughing and gorging on dishes.”

But soon, the family had to vacate their hometown due to the rising militancy. So at the age of eight, Sandeep moved to Bengaluru with the family.

He says his culinary skills were shaped by making the best of what little they had at home. This, he says, was his ‘first school of cooking’.

To him, food wasn’t simply a part of the daily routine but a common thread that bound the family together.

Following an MBA in Bengaluru, he moved to Australia in 2016 where he was leading IT projects in Melbourne.

In 2019, Sandeep was just settling down in Australia and was fascinated by the show, MasterChef.

Having watched it growing up, he decided to participate in its Season 11, for which auditions were being held at the time. And as they say, the rest is history as he found a place among the Top 10.

“I was always mesmerised about how different Kashmiri cuisine was to other cuisines in that it incorporated no onions, used limited tomatoes, and the dishes are lamb based.”

In 2019, he started ‘The Spice Angel’, a platform based in Australia and India. And through this, Sandeep aims to preserve traditional food knowledge and approach cooking in olden ways.

The platform offers traditional spice blends, recipes by the master chef himself, and tutorials on YouTube.

There is even a section on the website that features recipes of dishes that Sandeep cooked in the various challenges on MasterChef Australia.

Among the hits are traditional ‘Kashmiri Garam Masala’, or the pride of Karnataka: ‘Sambar Masala’, traditional ‘Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder’ and more.