Most MasterChef Australia winners go on to sign up book deals and TV shows, and open restaurants. Justin Narayan, the Fijian-Indian Season 13 topper, is not only doing all this, but he plans to cook and work for the Mumbai-based NGO, Vision Rescue.
Having been a youth pastor with a mission to create a fun and safe environment for teens, working with disadvantaged children is as important for Justin as setting up a food truck or restaurant showcasing popular Indian food. Justin, whose mother is of Indian origin, first visited India in 2017.
Vision Rescue was started by Biju Thampy, a pastor and motivational speaker, in Mumbai in 2004, providing vada pav to children living at the Mahim railway station. Since then, the NGO's activities have grown to include counselling for children abusing drugs, providing healthcare, running a slum school and a transition home for women rescued from traffickers, and getting school dropouts engaged in sports.
Other than setting his sights on Vision Rescue, Justin, according to 10play.com.au, the website of Network10, the TV that owns the rights to MasterChef Australia, got married to his sweetheart and fiancee, Esther Smoothy, and they set off for their honeymoon immediately after his big night. Justin and Esther had been dating for the past two years.
"I am so fortunate, very blessed, for all those things," the 28-year-old from Perth said in a conversation with the website. "Genuinely the best year of my life, I can easily say that." It was doubly important for him to win the title because his father has been ailing for some time -- "fighting for his life", as he puts it. And his father, along with the rest of the family, was watching him from the gantry suspended from one end of the studio.
"It gave me that extra bit of motivation and an extra little bit of determination to focus on what I needed to do and, for him be in the room and see me do something I love the best, that was really special," Justin said to the website.
In another interview given to the NRI website, IndiaLink News, Justin touched upon how the reality TV show had made Australians more receptive to global flavours. "The show has changed the very concept of Australian food," he said. "You name a cuisine and it's been there. This season alone it has showcased Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Indian, Cambodian, Korean food."
The show, Justin said, had also promoted a culture of social inclusivity. "When you see and taste the food from various cultures, when you relish someone else's food, you learn to accept their culture a little bit more," he said.
His advice to MasterChef aspirants: "Cook the food you grew up with, cook the food you find delicious." Food, as Justin put it, is a "great equaliser".