Interaction Program with Chef Santosh Shah

6th January 2021, ENCCT (Europe-Nepal Chamber of Commerce) and INCC (Ireland- Nepal Chamber of Commerce) conducted an interaction program with Mr. Santosh Shah; 1st runner up of Masterchef UK 2020.

General Secretary of Ireland-Nepal Chamber of Commerce Ms. Alison Irwin started the program by reading out the message of good wishes for the event from His Excellency Nepalese Ambassador to Ireland and the UK Dr. Durga Bahadur Subedi. She congratulated Mr. Santosh Shah for achieving such an honor for him and the country as well.

Chairman of ENCCT and CEO of INCC Mr. Deepesh Man Shakya did the opening with his hearty gratitude towards Mr. Santosh Shah and his contribution to promote the Nepalese Cuisine and Culture. Summarizing Mr. Shah’s contribution, Mr. Shakya said Mr. Santosh Shah has basically snatched the Nepalese Cuisine and put it in the global spotlight in a matter of days.

Speaking at the event, Her Excellency Nepalese Ambassador to Spain Ms. Dawa F Sherpa said Mr. Santosh Shah gave hope for Nepalese tourism during the pandemic when there was not much to look up to. She also shared her views on Mr. Shah being an inspiration to all the Nepalese youth in the culinary industry setting a validation of their art and skill.

In his keynote speech, Mr. Karna Shakya, an environmentalist, hotelier, and also considered as "Father of Nepalese tourism", shared how Indian cuisine took over Nepalese cuisine and was outshined. There are thousands of Nepalese restaurant around Europe and he wants them to promote the cuisine just as Mr. Santosh Shah did. He also shared that food is a prime aspect of global tourism and Mr. Shah did a tremendous job in promoting the Nepalese cuisine throughout the world through Masterchef UK program.

In his talk, Mr. Santosh Shah started off with his experience on how people from around the world are contacting him to taste his dishes which they didn't know existed in the first place. Mr. Shah had been working in an Indian restaurant for the past 20 years and he wanted to open a Nepalese restaurant and was working on the menu when he decided to take his ideas to the Masterchef UK 2020 competition as a promotion of his restaurant. He shares that he has a huge burden on his shoulders as the expectations are at the peak which is why he wants to explore more Nepalese cuisine; from the Himalayas to the plains and improvise it his way. Furthermore, he is planning on publishing a 'Cookbook' soon. He mentioned that he recently discovered a dish called 'teetay' in which the chicken feather is burnt and marinated which blew his mind as he had not found the technique being used in his past experiences as a food traveler and there might be more of it to explore. He quotes; "Nepali means honesty, humble, cultural and always acceptable" and he wanted to reflect that in Masterchef UK. Mr. Shah gives his gratitude to the Nepalese chefs who have been playing with spices and utilizing it to its best.

Mr. Deepesh Man Shakya shared his wish to see Nepalese dishes mentioned in Hollywood movies. He also expressed his deepest thankfulness to Mr. Shah for sharing his experiences, struggles, and future plans. He also thanked Mr. Prabin Shakya for his help in organizing the talk program.

Mr. Tony Nation questioned Mr. Santosh Shah about the difference between Indian cuisine and Nepalese cuisine. Mr. Shah replied, "Nepalese cuisine is cooked for foodie people, Nepalese food is cooked from heart to heart and Nepalese food has different ingredients which are only found in Nepal and the different techniques used." He explained about the smoking technique, steaming technique to make 'Yomari', ' Kachila' and more.

Ms. Emer Connolly asked to Mr. Shah - "What have you learned the most from your Masterchef journey and for any aspiring chefs, what do you think is the most important quality that you need to take on board?" Mr. Shah replied that there wasn't a day where he did not learn. Every day he reflected on himself and tried his best to learn from his experiences. He also stated, "Be who you are, do not copy others", this helped him to progress in Masterchef and make an identity.

Ms. Marilena Frisone , a Social Anthropologist Ph.D. student, asked – “Why and how you got the idea of presenting and introducing 'Yomari'? Mr.Shah replied saying - "Practice makes man perfect" and experience will boost you up. He said he tasted 'Yomari' in a festival organized by his friend and ate it with 'Aloo ko achar' which he stored in his memory and combined the dish with a dumpling that helped him come up with the dish.

Ms. Sara West asked, "How do you introduce your food to someone who doesn't know anything about it?" Mr. Shah said that was the biggest challenge for him in Masterchef. He tried his best not to lose the essence of the dish but he improvised it to adjust it with the taste of the judges. His experiences helped him do that.

Mr. Alan Marcel-Sanca, one of the directors of INCC, also expressed his views at the event.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Karna Shakya mentioned that Nepal has more festivals than days of the year and food is the combination of occasion and emotions. He added Nepal has a number of dishes made in the various festivals and they are all delicacies. When being asked by a gentleman about the difference between Indian food and Nepalese food, he replied that Indian food is mostly cooked whereas, Nepalese food is mostly steamed which are hygienic.

Mr. Deepesh Ma Shakya wrapped up the program expressing his gratitude towards all the participants and also guest speakers and most importantly, Mr. Santosh Shah for his valuable time and words. Mr. Shakya presented Mr. Shah with a digital certificate of gratitude and appreciation.