Loki Madireddi of MasterChef Australia fame hosts a series of experiential dinners


Loki Madireddi of MasterChef Australia fame hosts a series of experiential dinners to forge a ‘friendship through food’ between Australia and India

The last time chef Loki Madireddi visited Chennai, back in 2021, he gave us a gastronomic tour from Egmore to Kanyakumari over an eight-course dinner. This time, the MasterChef Australia finalist, who incidentally grew up in Egmore, has upped the ante with a much more elaborate series of plates. Collaborating with the Park Hyatt Chennai, Loki is in town for a two-week residency with the theme: Friendship through Food — Australia & India. Starting tomorrow, expect a series of experiential dinners designed as train journeys that the Melbourne-based chef says will ‘play with your mind’. Like Dinner on Alleppey Express, on April 15, which will feature a dish called Beeda Babu — betel leaf combined with flame-grilled prawn onion jam and spicy coconut, named after Babu who the chef tells us would bring amazing seafood to his house or Chaffee ice cream paired with chai mousse, cardamom sable and ginger pecan — the dish that earned him a MasterChef immunity. There are also other experiences like The Toddy Shop happening on multiple evenings which will serve up bar snacks like KFC (Korean fried cauliflower), Hogenakkal Fish Fry and Son-in-law Eggs paired with a beverage of your choice and the Aussie Backyard BBQ Brunch showcasing native ingredients like the Quandong, which is a wild peach. We ask chef Loki for a ticket behind the making of this unique culinary journey. Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us what to expect over the next two weeks.
The dinners will feature dishes from my childhood with a unique Australian twist whilst the bar food will showcase flavours from Asia that have influenced my style of cooking. I will be collaborating with Executive Chef Balaji Natarajan, this is my second time working with the hotel team and what excites me, even more, is their level of creativity and passion.

Give us a peek at the menu highlights.
The food I am serving is all about playing with your mind – you might find familiar flavours along with an unfamiliar experience. Dinner on Chennai Express on April 22 is my tribute to Chennai – you will find a dish called Don Bosco Canteen featuring Sumo-sa, my take on the Don Bosco canteen samosa. For dessert, you will be treated to the Fortune cookie featuring Cassata ice cream with an Aussie twist. Meanwhile, Dinner on Coromandel Express on April 21 will feature dishes like Navy Seals, my take on a cruffin with Gongura lamb shoulder or Gongura jackfruit (for vegetarians) with Australian Davidson plum. And Journey Along the Silk Route will feature an interesting use of spices found along the route of Thailand, Southern India, Sri Lanka, China and Indonesia coming together in a set menu at Mr Ong.

Are you travelling with any special ingredients on this visit?
I am delighted to represent native Australian ingredients from the Australian Superfood Co who have kindly provided my some of the best produce such as Kakadu plum, Davidson plum and Quandong. I am also showcasing Australian lava salts made by my friend Chef Sebastian Simon in Melbourne, Australia.

Beyond the flavours, tell us more about the ethos of the event which is friendship through food between Australia and India.
Australia-India bilateral relations are very important as proven by the recent visit of Australian PM Anthony Albanese in March 2023. The two countries have signed the ECTA (Economic Cooperation Trade Agreement) and the food and beverage sector will benefit immensely from the reduced tariffs thus facilitating more trade and cooperation. As a chef, this is music to my ears as I am passionate about bringing the culinary communities in both countries together. I have co-founded the Trust the Loki Fellowship program to provide a platform for next-gen chefs and culinary creators in India and Australia by creating a scholarship and mentoring program. The Australian Consulate in Chennai and the Australian Consul General for South India, Sarah Kirlew, have been very supportive of our efforts and I am hopeful they will continue to provide their support and guidance as we continue to build the Fellowship program.

What have you been working on recently?
I have been working on the Trust the Loki Fellowship program and hoping to take it to the next level by doing more culinary residencies, internships, and idea collaborations between India and Australia. My dream is to create a platform that helps the culinary communities in both countries connect with each other as food is the universal language of love and friendship. From my cooking perspective, I have been experimenting with different native ingredients of Australia and combining them in traditional Indian dishes. I love the idea of creating familiar flavours with unfamiliar ingredients.

What are you most excited about for 2023?
I am excited about everything – this year is all about scaling the Fellowship program and broadening its impact by giving back to the next generation. Food is a deep healer and connector and it’s my goal to create harmony through food, especially in these times when the world feels a bit askew. It’s also about personal growth and evolution for me as a person and a chef. I strongly believe food is energy and I am focused on finding my own balance and harmony to harness my creative energies in food so I can continue to serve my community in both India and Australia.


This article first appeared in The New India Express Indulge in April 2023.


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