For Leicester’s Diya Kotecha-Lodhia, taking part in this year’s MasterChef was about more than just the competition.
It was the fulfilment of a 17 year ambition, and a way to pay homage to her late mum – the woman she credits with igniting her culinary passion, and teaching her everything she knows about food…
Diya made it to the quarter finals of this year’s competition – delighting judges with her spicy Indian dishes. However, just getting the chance to take part in the popular BBC cooking show, was a dream come true for the 38-year-old travel consultant.
“MasterChef has been on my bucket list for the past 17 years. For years I would consider applying for it, but could never quite muster the courage to see it through!” she said of her achievement.
“All that I have ever known or learned about food, I owe to my mum, who had more faith in me than I had in myself.
“She was the biggest foodie that I have ever known, and she had magic in her hands. With simple ingredients she would create something so special.
“I remember watching an episode of MasterChef with her when she was alive. She told me to apply for it, as she had full faith in me that I would do well,” Diya went on to reveal.
“Entering and taking part in the show was a way of paying homage to my mum. She has made me who I am today, and I can proudly say that I fulfilled her dream by being on the show.”
Diya, is a mum-of two who was born and raised in Malawi.
She hails her MasterChef experience as “life changing” – the “most stressful yet exhilarating” experience of her life.
On the show, she won praise for her traditional Indian street food dish Aloo Chana Tokri Chat.
Although she’s drawn to pan Asian cooking, she will make pretty much anything as long as she has fresh ingredients, she says.
“I like to experiment with ingredients, and create fusion dishes. Some work, and some don’t, but that’s the only way I learn,” she explained.
“I could be in the kitchen rustling up a five-course meal, or dinner parties up to 30 people or more, but sometimes, it could be something really quick and simple made in one pan…it all depends on the day.
“I do try to avoid as much packaged foods or things out of a jar,” she added.
“Living in Africa, we didn’t have huge supermarkets and everything was always made from scratch and this has always been the way I like to cook for my family.
“My mum taught me that the secret ingredient to the most amazing food is love.”
Diya regularly shares recipes and videos on her popular Instagram page, where she has over 9,000 followers.
Having fulfilled a longterm culinary ambition by appearing on MasterChef, she is now looking ahead to another.
“I would love to write a cookbook, as there is something magical about seeing your name on a cover that’ll spread
love and happiness in people’s homes through food,” she revealed.
“I would definitely like to establish a business in catering. Seeing and feeding happy faces truly brings a smile to mine.”