He didn’t take out the title, but as far as MasterChef’s Sushil Ravikumar is concerned, he’s won.
Labelled the politest and most respectful contestant in MasterChef history, Sushil has landed two job offers since the show ended, and he’s now working with Simon Gault at his Wellington restaurant Pravda.
But even after hanging up his MasterChef apron last week, Sushil faced a new challenge – balancing his passion for food with his love for his family.
“I turned down the offer from Chef Michel [Louws] at Huka Lodge,” Sushil says. “As you can imagine, it was an extremely generous offer, but due to my family and my love affair with Wellington, I wasn’t ready to relocate just yet.”
Sitting at home with his wife, Karunya, and their daughter, Esther (2), Sushil is a husband and a dad first and foremost – although the new title of chef is one he’s enjoying.
“MasterChef has been the most amazing experience,” he says. “I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities. This is exactly what I wanted.”
Although Sushil is passionate about all food, Indian cuisine is his speciality.
“Obviously Indian food is something that I know well. I just love the colour and the flavour and how it brings people together,” he says.
Sushil is still working in his “day job” as an IT specialist, and heads to Pravda on the weekends. It’s a gruelling schedule, but Sushil says as
soon as he gets into the kitchen he feels at home.
“It’s pure bliss,” he smiles. “People ask me if I’m tired, but nope. It’s awesome.”
Working seven days a week means Sushil is relying on Karunya more than ever. Thankfully, as well as being his harshest critic, she’s also his loudest supporter.
“I’m very proud,” the softly spoken stay-at-home-mum says. “His level of perfection is totally different from everyone else. I’m like: ‘Why are you putting so much pressure on yourself?’”
It was because of Karunya that Sushil entered MasterChef in the first place.
“She’s my rock, but she’s also hard on me,” Sushil chuckles.
“She wants me to be my best at all times and cooking is just my absolute passion. When the ad for auditions came up again, she said, ‘You’ve done well at work, your family is settled – it’s time for you to try and achieve your dreams.’”
The couple, who met at Sushil’s sister’s wedding in India, married four years ago but were apart for two years while Sushil finished his studies and Karunya was still in India.
“We lived together over the phone. The bill wasn’t great,” Sushil smiles. “But we were finally able to be together.”
The couple had to contend with separation again during Sushil’s time in the MasterChef house – a memory that still haunts the proud father.
“Even thinking about it now makes me stressed,” he says.
“Karunya was left to run the family for months and we had no pay coming in. It couldn’t have been easy for her, so I knew when I was in the house that by doing well in the competition, it would help repay my family for what they’ve done for me.”
Eventually Sushil hopes to work as a chef full-time, but for now he’s content to learn his craft from the best in the business.
“I never wanted to be a home cook,” he says. “I wanted to be a chef. In MasterChef, it came down to devotion and dedication. If you have that,
it will take you to great heights.”
And he says the messy, sweaty Sushil we came to know and love on the show is long gone.
“At Pravda, I’ve been doing some training under the head chef, Adam Rickett. It’s amazing how much my skills have improved – no sweat, no mess, just great food!”
FAMILY DISH STIRS EMOTIONS
Sushil says the show has been an emotional rollercoaster, but preparing a “last supper”, where contestants made a meal they would cook their loved ones, was the hardest: “You have to stop thinking about your family or you will lose focus.”
Photos: Penny Towns • Make-up: Sharyn Butters