Bradford’s very own vegetarian chef Radha Kaushal-Bolland has made it to the final four of BBC One’s top cooking competition.
The 23-year-old law graduate, known as the Spicy Flexitarian or Chef Radha Ru, has made it to the MasterChef final four after she wowed judges with a book inspired biryani and a smoked fishcake with poached egg and salad on last night’s episode.
The University of Huddersfield alumna began cooking in her final year of university after moving back to her parent’s home in Bradford when the pandemic emerged in 2020.
She started cooking tea every night for her parents and brother as a way to relieve stress from her final exams and pressure on her father, who works at the University of Bradford, and her mum, who is a lead pharmacist at NHS 111 England.
Of dual Indian and British heritage, the chef combines Indian cuisine with western adaptions, often paring her food with cocktails.
She also loves to cook classic British desserts that remind her of the boarding schools she attended in North Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
Being vegetarian for most of her life, she cooks with plant-based products, elevating a humble vegetable and giving it a spicy twist by pairing it with South Asian flavours.
The first challenge of the finals saw the five remaining contestants create a dish inspired by a public figure, or a piece of art, film, song, TV series or book.
Inspired by Disney’s Jungle Book (1967) and Rudyard Kipling’s If (1910) poem, the young chef created a jewelled jungle jackfruit biryani with a puff pastry seeded disc, with a rich and creamy tomato gravy, kachumber salad with coriander oil and a glass of masala Lassi.
Speaking about her delicious culinary creation, Ms Kaushal-Bolland said: “This dish is very close to my heart due to my dual heritage and the challenges I faced growing up. I took inspiration from the works of Rudyard Kipling and The Jungle Book.
“The poem If allowed me to believe that if I strive for something and stay true to myself I can succeed. I was inspired by The Jungle Book because like Mowgli, because of my dual heritage, I too have experienced challenges in fitting in.
“The Lassi divided the crowd as expected but I stayed true to my Indian heritage and culture. I am proud to be both not half.”
Inspired by works of Rudyard Kipling. The poem ‘IF’ has allowed me to believe that “IF” I strive for something and stay true to myself I can succeed. ‘THE JUNGLE BOOK’ because like Mowgli, because of my duel heritage I too have experienced challenges of fitting in.#MasterChefUK pic.twitter.com/JCxNogKP7L
— Chef Rü (Radha) | The Spicy Flexitarian (@thespicyflex) May 3, 2022
For the second half of the episode, the contestants took a trip to Ballymaloe House and Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland to create a dish inspired by Mrytle Allan, who was an Irish Michelin star-winning head chef and co-owner of the restaurant The Yeats Room at Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, who created the Farm to Fork concept in her home country.
Despite not eating meat or fish, the young chef prepared a yummy fish-based dish that impressed the judges. She created a smoked mackerel fishcake with black olive and caper butter on a bed of crushed garden peas, with a poached hen egg and fresh garden salad with a honey mustard dressing.
She said: “This was my toughest challenge yet, which I managed to overcome after being given the fish course. Using the principles of Myrtle Allen’s Farm to Fork, I tried to emulate her style and use as much fresh produce that was available to me. The style of cooking at Ballymaloe House and Cooking School is simple and elegant, I wanted to showcase the fresh ingredients.”
My toughest challenge yet which I managed to overcome after been given the Fish course.
Smoked Mackerel Fishcake, Black Olive & Caper Butter, Crushed Garden Peas, Poached Hens Egg & Fresh Garden Salad, Dressed in Honey & Mustard Dressing#MasterChefUK @BallymaloeCS @Ballymaloe pic.twitter.com/piIrtMCke2
— Chef Rü (Radha) | The Spicy Flexitarian (@thespicyflex) May 4, 2022
Chef Radha added: “Making the final of the MasterChef programme has really boosted my confidence in my own ability as a chef. It feels wonderful that I have been able to showcase my love and joy for vegetarian food and encourage others to consider making at least one meal a week a vegetarian meal.
“The food that I have cooked in the finals have been new creations that I have created, and I am grateful for the opportunity to showcase how easy and cost-effective it is to cook my style of food whilst remaining mindful of food poverty and the rising cost of living.
“The whole experience has been a rollercoaster of emotion. Through this journey, I have learnt that I am resilient, can think on my feet and have transferable skills that I put to use especially in the Invention Tests.”
The second heat of the MasterChef finals airs tonight at 8pm on BBC One. Three contestants will make it through to the final episode on Thursday to battle it out as this season’s winner.
Do you think Chef Radha has what it takes to win the competition? Let us know your thoughts in the comment below.