During the final day of Superstar Week, Poh Ling Yeow, Reynold Poernomo and Callum Hann returned to the kitchen, challenging the contestants to create a dish that would seamlessly fit with one of their menus.
Callum’s ethos for his restaurant, Eleven, centres around a paddock-to-plate approach, highlighting seasonal produce in modern Australian cuisine. Hoping to impress both Callum and the judges, Minoli set out to make a sous vide steak with yuzu dressing and pickles.
As Callum and Melissa Leong approached Minoli’s bench, the pair had questions about both her approach to the dish and the end result she was aiming for.
“I think the one thing that I did was that I completely missed the brief,” Minoli told 10 play following her elimination.
“Mel came over and was questioning why I was doing a sous vide steak and in my head at the time I really didn’t think about what I was doing and why I was doing it,” she added.
“I wasn’t doing it for myself, and I only realised that afterwards.”
Describing the dish as “a moment of panic”, Minoli said it wasn’t a true representation of her style of cooking and that lack of authenticity was what ultimately would send her home.
Intimidated by the other cooks in the competition, and questioning if the Sri Lankan food that she loves to cook was too simple for the challenge, Minoli settled on the sous vide steak approach.
Sous vide is a process using precise temperature controls to cook food evenly, consistently and with less waste. Food is then finished by grilling or searing the food to add that crust and char.
“It’s really good for when you’re cooking for a lot of people because it’s a very good wait to control temperature and cook a steak evenly,” Minoli explained.
“When you’re cooking for one person it’s just so easy to do it in a pan. When you sous vide a steak you have to do a little bit more to get a crust… I probably shouldn’t have used the sous vide when I had a nice frying pan on the gas stove.”
But it was more than just the sous vide that had Minoli questioning her dish, and ultimately the challenge reaffirmed what she already knew, that she is at her best when she’s cooking something that she feels authentically represents her.
“That’s the one thing I took out of it, to remind myself to always be authentic to myself when I cook, cook flavours that I know really well and to keep cooking with flavours that make me happy and flavours I want to eat… that should be my barometer when I’m cooking.”
“I should have just gone hard with Sri Lankan flavours and used my knowledge of modern Australian cooking to pull out a banger of a dish,” she said.
“But I’m just going to keep cooking because I cannot let that cook be the cook that defines me."
Her time in the competition allowed Minoli to think about how she wants to continue her food journey in the industry, realising she wanted to share the knowledge she has gathered over the years.
“I’m going to start putting up videos on YouTube with the tips and tricks that I learned,” she said, adding, “I’m really excited to use that confidence that I got from being on the show. I had some cooks, especially this elimination, where I really had to think about why I cooked what I did and what I was trying to achieve.
“It was a lesson for me to be authentic with my cooking. If I love what I’m doing, if I’m happy with the food that I’m cooking, then that should be enough. If I can bring even a tiny little part of what I’ve learned to someone else then I think I’ve achieved my goal.”
Follow Minoli on Instagram @minoli.desilva
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