Avinash Pattnaik’s father had a transferrable job within the Indian Air Power, which required the household to maintain shifting from one metropolis to a different throughout the nation. This uncovered him to completely different meals and cultures. This expertise sowed the seeds of his experimentation with completely different cuisines.
Whereas his love for cooking stored rising, he additionally developed an curiosity within the research of crops. So, he pursued a specialisation in floriculture and landed a job as an Agriculture Officer. He served the Odisha Authorities for six years earlier than realising that his calling was elsewhere.
“A buddy mentioned, ‘We solely get one life, and after 30 years after we are previous, there ought to be no regrets’. These phrases made an impression on me and I realised that I ought to comply with my ardour earlier than it’s too late. So, I stop my job in 2016 and determined to pursue my PhD whereas following my ardour for cooking,” the 35-year-old tells The Higher India.
Immediately Avinash has made it to the highest amongst 12 contestants at MasterChef India Season 7, dazzling the judges by including a novel floral fusion to conventional Odisha dishes.
However the journey from quitting the job to creating it to MasterChef was not easy.
‘Flowers add extra than simply aesthetic worth’
Avinash’s choice to stop his job was met with opposition from his mom, kinfolk, and seniors.
“My mom was very sceptical about my choice. Many kinfolk even mentioned that I’ve misplaced my thoughts. Amidst all this, I had some moments the place I began to query my very own selections, nevertheless it was my associates’ perception and my father’s help that helped me persevere,” he says.
He gave his resignation on the onset of the pandemic in 2020. “The resignation process took a while and the pandemic slowed it down additional, so I had quite a lot of free time on my hand. I’m actually enthusiastic about meals and flowers, and I stored pondering of how through which I can mix the 2. I began by documenting lesser-known edible flowers in a weblog that I began,” he says.
The documentation finally gave him the concept to create floral fusion recipes.
“Flowers have at all times been perceived as an aesthetic topping on meals and never as one thing that may be consumed. This isn’t true, and I needed to focus on that. So I began writing recipes that includes edible flowers,” he notes.
Journey to the apron
Avinash needed to show to everybody who discouraged him that his ardour pays the payments. So, he began baking at dwelling and promoting the objects. “I didn’t ship the goodies; individuals would come and acquire them. Whereas individuals had been shedding cash and jobs in the course of the pandemic, I used to be incomes cash as an alternative,” he says.
He informs that taking part in MasterChef was by no means initially in his plan. He merely needed to deal with his PhD. However the individuals round him motivated him to take part within the present.
“Lots of my associates informed me how I want an even bigger platform to focus on Odisha delicacies via my floral fusion recipes. And fortuitously, even my professors allowed me to pause my PhD to take part within the present,” he says.
So, then it was last that Avinash would showcase his skills on the truth present and characterize genuine Odisha meals on nationwide tv.
He says, “I needed to remind individuals of the huge number of conventional meals we now have. Most cooks and meals lovers are going for western cuisines when we now have a treasure trove of scrumptious recipes again dwelling. I need to shield our recipes — my homeland’s, my mom’s and my grandmother’s — from being forgotten.”
Avinash has used quite a few flowers comparable to blue pea, coral jasmine, hibiscus, agasti, bahunia, palash, marigold, rose, gulmohar, golden bathe, and moringa to make sharbats, chatnis, and plenty of different dishes.
He says, “Initially, I didn’t realise the impression of my work, however my PhD information supported me. She believed that I’m going to alter the attitude of how individuals have a look at edible flowers.”
Speaking about how he incorporates flowers in conventional Odisha meals, Avinash says, “I really like experimenting with completely different dishes, however even I used to be fairly excited by the best way this dish known as gaintha pitha turned out.”
Avinash informs that gaintha pitha is an present Odisha dish which is obtainable to lord Jagannath in the course of the months of November and December. It’s a easy dish made in nearly each family in Odisha, however not as celebrated.
“The dish holds cultural and non secular significance to individuals, so it was exhausting to consider infusions that might be deemed acceptable. The dumplings within the pitha are made from rice flour. I added the color of the blue pea flower to them. Then, I included coral jasmine to provide the sweetened milk a yellow color and an alluring aroma. The flower acted as an alternative choice to saffron. Individuals who can’t afford saffron can use this flower as an alternative, however not many are conscious of this,” he explains.
He additional crafted the dumplings within the form of flowers giving an additional aesthetic high quality to his distinctive dish.
“Each earlier than and after MasterChef, my intention was and can at all times be to advertise lesser-known edible flowers via my meals. I plan to write a e book that includes my fusion recipes, my analysis, and the documentation of those flowers to encourage individuals,” says Avinash.
He additionally shares that his dream is to sooner or later construct a homegrown cafe, the place individuals can come and revel in genuine Odisha meals with floral fusion. “Those that know me intently say that meals and Avinash are synonymous as a result of I really like cooking and feeding individuals.”
“After I took up floriculture as my main, I realised that there are such a lot of varieties of flowers that individuals are unaware of and really feel no connection to them. I need to narrate tales, myths and folklore round these flowers, so individuals revive the connection. This fashion, we are able to additionally save these flowers from being extinct. I need to do my bit to guard the ecosystem,” he says.
To learn to prepare dinner conventional Odisha meals, you’ll be able to test Avinash’s official Instagram web page for recipes.
Edited by Pranita Bhat