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The Pastor Chef

This Top 4 Masterchef contestant has the gift of pastoring beautiful food and inventing a few more in the kitchen.

Who knew cooking would be ‘fast and furious’ for this Sydney born, now loud and proud resident of Perth, a youth pastor, who idolises   chefs like Gaggan Anand and Gordon Ramsay. With no further ado introducing – Justin Narayan inheriting the best of Fijian and Indian heritage; ancestors from the south of India. He not only pursued Bachelors of Nursing, almost did a diploma in psychology and just before signing up for Masterchef, he took up Masters in Theology.

Justin’s love for food is mainly owing to his culture; especially his ‘parti’ (grandmother) and ‘tata’ (grandfather). They would invite people over for tea which turned to dinner and then desserts. So as being in front and centre of this, Justin grew up not only loving food but appreciating what would quickly turn up to be a fantastic meal with minimal ingredients that his mother and grandparents whipped up in no time.  The table buzzing with strangers, peals of laughter, sharing a meal where beautiful plates of food are ladled with love, stories and that’s how Justin (27) connected with food, and people. That in itself is so powerful – “A bowl of deliciousness is enough to connect any human from any culture, creed, religion or class.” (Justin).

He goes on to say that the moments created by each of these stories have impacted him not only to connect and create a community with food but also with his pastoring and helping people. To be able to help people and feed them is Pastor Justin’s value and something that he is proud of. Joining Masterchef was purely nostalgia! Watching Masterchef with his grandparents and then he did something random, like most of us in lockdown, but only a few had the courage to sign up for Masterchef. Influenced by his then girlfriend (now fiancé) and encouraged by a friend, he signed the application. Everything is history after that, as pretty much things snowballed from there.

Justin’s passion is ultimately helping people and he pretty much sees food as a platform to create a programme or a restaurant where a dollar should be able to help in going towards charity. He is quite passionate about Mumbai’s charity “Vision rescue’ – feeds kids in the slums. Justin having that opportunity to go to Mumbai and see in person has been a life-changing experience, and it would be equally a huge honour to use his Masterchef platform to be a part of this charity work.

People have always been his motivation, even for him being a Pastor and Justin couldn’t have put this more beautifully into his reasoning to our editor, Mr Sethi. He’s fascinated with the community and growing up in a generous family, with dad building orphanages and the family involving themselves in charity work always kept him curious. Justin wouldn’t want to change his course of life if he won Masterchef. He wouldn’t want to change anything as the gold-post for his life is broad. Using this platform, he could do a lot of things in food, charity, NGO and his pastoring; as Masterchef is that fine tool to realise his potential.

A mission impossible task for some chefs keeping the kitchen running smoothly with laughter under pressure. Though saying that I can just foresee Justin’s ‘kitchen’ echoing with chuckling lobsters and tittering ice-creams, screaming to his idol move over Mr Ramsay “this is how Justin does it”. Justin, we have come to love cannot be boxed; he is as fluid as his unintended puns; his journey into MasterChef’s kitchen making us fall in love with who he is.

Seeing so many of the peasant dishes from India at this year’s Master Chef is a revelation in itself; a proof to how far Australia has come to take that giant leap of culinary faith.

Calling his Daal Bhaat (Rice and lentils) controversial simply because of him modestly tampering with originality – adding vanilla pod to his payasam (rice pudding), changing the constituency of the dhaal to slightly thicker and frying the rice crispy while the original taste still intact. That’s exactly Justin’s muse, making cooking fun and exciting just like his personality – original.  Daal Bhaat sometimes translating to poor man’s food for winter and Dahi (yoghurt) Bhaat for a poor man’s food for summer is technical when Justin cooks it, making it Masterchef worthy. Similarly, the challenge of using coke, chocolate and potato chips and changing into refine dessert.

Justin is very thankful to be able to make it this far into MasterChef. As on Tuesday night’s challenge, he disclosed how close he was in giving up his Masterchef dream as his father was taken ill. He is in the competition because of his father’s request to keep motoring on, to keep the faith. The result is epic – as if he’s been touched by the food god, where only few make it to the top four. Now realising that he is quite good in his craft, someday he would like to pay it forward to the community, one day.

At the moment, with no Plan B right now, though there could be a restaurant in the cards in the near future. Whatever it is, it may involve India as his passion for India is enduring. He always wants to help people there; MasterChef’s popularity in India aligns with everything that he is inclined to, thus adding another beat to his story.

And, why not growing with the Indian spices adoring cumin, coriander and chillies, Justin just loves to eat everything and anything. Almost fooling us by saying that he speaks Hindi fluently’ in fact like any third culture kid he tries to and in a very weird way he loves Bollywood too. Give him a tear-jerker like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi gum and he is committed to half his day for this Bollywood classic.

 Looking up to jock as his grandfather, Justin himself has scored few sidekicks to his name for example my Chief editor, Mr Sethi thinks about Bieber every time he watches Justin on Masterchef. To this Justin (smirks) looks as the perfect brand association he’s after, cheeky!  Literally making everyone even on zoom break into laughter. What can I say about this interview? One word – one memorable interview, just like this year’s Masterchef season 13. It’s one of those nostalgic, melancholy moments of reality TV has ever produced, I don’t know what it is? It could be the pandemic or the contestants; whatever it is, it is just purely awesome.

Lastly, Masterchef has changed the way Justin looks at (his) food today, he’s excited about what life may bring and as for the world whosoever is watching on the other side of the box, if he can be a drop in the ocean for entertainment – so be it!

I and Mr Sethi not only wish him all the best but also, we will be looking out for him in the foodie crowds or in his charity work. I can’t help myself quoting Justin’s favourite from the movie Fast and The Furious “It don’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning is winning.”

By Nandita Chakraborty