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MasterChef UK finalist Anurag Aggarwal on his life in Essex

The MasterChef UK finalist plans to open his first restaurant in Essex Credit: Sadman Akib Photography
The MasterChef UK finalist plans to open his first restaurant in Essex Credit: Sadman Akib Photography

MasterChef UK finalist Anurag Aggarwal has dreams of opening a finedining Indian restaurant right here in Essex. We catch up with talented chef to find out how he’s building his culinary career.

Step aside Jamie Oliver, there’s a new chef in town! Anurag Aggarwal made it to the final of MasterChef UK with his modern twist on authentic Indian style cooking, and this is just the beginning for the talented Essex-based chef. Indeed, following an exciting collaboration with the Magic Mushroom restaurant in Billericay, Anurag has ambitious plans for the year ahead with a book, tv series and fine-dining restaurant in the offing.

First of all, many congratulations on making it to the final of MasterChef UK. How has your life changed since the competition?

Thank you so much. Life has totally changed after MasterChef UK. I was always very passionate about food and cooking. However, I never thought that one day I would be able to follow my passion as a full-time profession. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy my time on the show, but it has given me a belief in myself, that this is the path I would like to take, so that I can share my deep love for cooking with others.

Great British Life: Anurag Aggarwal refined his cooking style on MasterChef UK Credit: Sadman Akib PhotographyAnurag Aggarwal refined his cooking style on MasterChef UK Credit: Sadman Akib Photography

How would you describe your style of cooking?

My style of cooking is authentic Indian with a modern twist. The dishes I cook always have some kind of inspiration behind them, such as Indian culture, my family (especially my late mother) or my travels. Food was never about ingredients, recipes, or cuisine for me, it was always about emotions and the nostalgia behind it. I always say that you should serve and cook food that you love to eat.

What would you say is your signature dish and why?

My signature dish is slow-cooked leg of lamb which is marinated for 48 hrs. This dish has an amazing balance of flavours, including the warmth of the whole spices with a sweetness of apricots and figs. Due to the slow cooking process, the meat just melts in your mouth. I like this dish a lot due to its flavour and overall wow factor. It simply makes me happy and so far, whoever has tasted it, their feedback has backed my love for this dish.

You recently collaborated with The Magic Mushroom Restaurant in Billericay – how did this come about?

Following my MasterChef UK appearance, I wanted to share my passion for food with the wider local community. Personally, living in the local area and the similarity in the ethos of Magic Mushroom and my own brand @anuragfoodstory, motivated me to reach out to the restaurant. It was an instant rapport with the team, and we planned this guest chef night where I presented a five-course menu inspired by my MasterChef UK journey. I absolute loved running this event and I am sure more events will take place soon - watch this space!

Great British Life: Anurag Aggarwal specialises in authentic Indian food with a modern twist Credit: Sadman Akib Photography Anurag Aggarwal specialises in authentic Indian food with a modern twist Credit: Sadman Akib Photography

What’s your primary focus with regards to your culinary career?

Regarding my culinary career, I see it three-fold. The first aspect is as a chef. This could translate into running special events as a guest chef and – in the long-term – opening my own high-end Indian restaurant. I have lived in the county for the last six years feel it is crying out for a restaurant that offers decent Indian food coupled with a top-class dining experience. This is exactly what I want to create for the lovely people of Essex. As a result, this year, I want to get exposed to the commercial and operational side of running and owning a restaurant business.

The second aspect is more consultation based, where I am getting involved in different projects to help existing or new restaurants develop and revamp their menu. Specialising in modern Indian cuisine, is very helpful, as with the current economic and social environment, businesses are craving for efficiency and at the same time want to innovate their product offering to boost revenue. Here I am using all my corporate experience as a finance professional together with my passion for food.

The third aspect is very dear to me, as it gives me an avenue to express my philosophical side. I am holding motivational talks with various organisations, including corporates, non-profit, charities and schools. Here, I talk about my own pursuit of happiness which has given me courage to change my profession.

Other than the above, I am also working on a concept which should either translate into a book or TV series or, who knows, maybe both!

Great British Life: The beautifully crafted dishes are full of flavour Credit: Sadman Akib Photography The beautifully crafted dishes are full of flavour Credit: Sadman Akib Photography

Do you think you will open your own restaurant at some point?

For sure, this is part of the plan as I indicated in my last response about culinary career as well. It’s just a matter of time. This year exposure and experience will provide me the required framework to launch a high-end speciality Indian restaurant.

Where are your favourite places to eat out in Essex and why?

I really like the quirky places in Leigh-on-sea on the Broadway. If I am in a relaxing mood, then I enjoy the small yet specialised places in or near Stock and Ingatestone. Both groups provide a unique experience and, depending on my mood, I choose the place. For me, it goes without saying that the food must be perfect; however, it’s the overall vibe/service of the venue that makes it worthwhile.

What other chefs do you admire?

There is a long list of chefs who I admire as they bring very different offerings to the culinary world. I like Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, Mary Berry, and many others. If I must pick one then I would say Rick Stein is my favourite chef. His simplicity of cooking and urge to respect each ingredient, makes him my favourite.

Great British Life: This talented chef has successfully navigated a career change from corporate to creative Credit: Sadman Akib PhotographyThis talented chef has successfully navigated a career change from corporate to creative Credit: Sadman Akib Photography

You’ve successfully navigated a career change from corporate to creative. What advice would you give to others keen to do the same?

It’s a difficult question, as there is no fixed formula or recipe for such a transition. These events in your life are driven more by your heart rather than the mind.

My advice to people who aspire to follow their passion, would just be honest about it, do it for the right reasons and do it for your own sake. In life there is nothing right or wrong, safe, or risky, good, or bad. At the end of the day, deep down we know if we are happy or not. Understand what makes you happy and gather the courage to take that very first step. The whole universe will conspire to support you to proceed forward on your chosen path.

Being based in Essex, where in the county do you most like to visit?

Essex is full of amazing places to visit from historic Colchester, Southend to small, beautiful villages. Generally, I like to visit the cosy places near the waterside in Chelmsford or the coastal areas.

If you could cook a meal for anyone in the public eye, who would it be and why?

Given a chance, I would love to cook a meal for King Charles III. I really admire his modern outlook for different areas including technology, politics, environment etc amid a very traditional and rigid monarchy.

I feel my cooking style is somewhat similar, where I take very traditional Indian dishes and present them in a modern way, without compromising their authenticity.

For more information about Anurag and his upcoming culinary events, visit anuragfoodstory.co.uk



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