“MasterChef” is a cooking reality TV show currently in its ninth season, which premiered May 30, 2018 on FOX. Talented home cooks compete through a series of challenging elimination rounds for the winning title of Master Chef and a grand prize of $250,000.
Like every fourth-year dental student, Farhan Momin, Midwestern-Illinois ’19, hopes to graduate soon and begin his professional career. But how many dentists can say they took a semester off during dental school to hone their culinary skills on national television? Here, Farhan discusses how he combines both his professional and creative passions.
Was there a specific experience that inspired you to pursue the culinary arts?
There was not a specific experience that inspired me to cook, but rather an admiration of the process of making food. Growing up, my mom always made time to cook a meal after work, no matter how tired she was from her day. I wanted to do my part to help, so she brought me into the kitchen at a young age to be her assistant. I was assigned my special knife, and I had the duty of cutting vegetables and stirring the pots. From these early interactions, a true passion and love for food developed.
How long have you been cooking?
I have been helping my mom in the kitchen since I was about 7 years old. The first meal I cooked on my own was a fried chicken sandwich when I was about 8. There were a ton of spices and, honestly, it did not taste very good, but it was mine.
What kind of food do you like to cook?
My style of cooking is based on food memories. I take the flavors I grew up eating at home and combine it with foods from around the world. I started this journey with taking Indian flavors and making them more accessible by putting them into familiar form factors. An example of this is the dish that got me the White Apron on “MasterChef,” which was my Tandoori Chicken Biscuit. I take the classic chicken biscuit and reimagine it as my parents would have made it.
Any plans to share your recipes?
I currently have a blog, Farmocooks.com, where I share my recipes and insight. This has been my primary medium for connecting with people and spreading this new way of looking at Indian cuisine.
How have you been able to juggle both dental school and being on the show?
Honestly, this was the toughest part about being on “MasterChef.” I knew that participating in the show would mean taking time off from school and delaying my graduation. I also knew that I could not give up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I had to go for it. Luckily for me, the administration at Midwestern was understanding and accommodating with me.
Now that I am back to school, juggling dentistry and cooking has been difficult but still rewarding. Typically, I get home and make myself dinner, which I force myself to get creative with. This way, I can keep creating and producing content for my blog, and stay on top of things with school.
What was the process like to get on “MasterChef”?
This part was the most interesting for me. I showed up to this location in downtown Chicago where open castings were held. I brought my now-famous Nihari Sandwich, which is based on a traditional Indian stew, but in a familiar form factor. The producers who were there took one bite and the rest is history.
Tell us what the most stressful and the most rewarding aspects of being on the show are.
The judges’ tastings were both the most stressful and rewarding experience. When they love your food, you feel on top of the world because these are some of the best culinary minds on the planet. When they hate your food, they really are not shy about telling you. The moment where Chef Aaron said my chicken biscuit was one of the best things he has ever tasted in the “MasterChef” kitchen is a top 10 moment in my life.
What is your advice to other home cooks?
That it is OK to make mistakes. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is how you improve and develop your skills.
What are your plans after dental school?
My post-dental school plans are to find a way to combine both my cooking and dental passions. I am not sure how I will do that just yet, but I do have a few ideas in the back of my mind. The dream is to be a dentist and to own a restaurant where I can showcase my style of food. I always joke with my patients now that I am going to start handing out coupons for samosas after cleanings.
The season started with 43 home cooks competing for the title of Master Chef. Currently, Farhan is one of the top 15. Tune in next Wednesday (8-9 p.m. ET/PT) on FOX to find out if he makes it to the next round of the competition for a chance to win the title of Master Chef!
~Lana Khazma, Texas A&M ’20, Electronic Editor