MasterChef Australia’s Andy Allen Opens Up About Mumbai Trip
Image Credit: Hunger Inc. Hospitality

He was 17 years old when he started cooking. He was an electrician who eventually followed his passion for food. In 2012, Andy Allen was crowned champion in season four of MasterChef Australia. This, however, was just the beginning for the 36-year-old chef. From authoring his first cookbook, The Next Element, to transitioning from his role as chef at Three Blue Ducks to becoming a co-owner of the entire restaurant group (which owns a chain of five outposts), before returning to the MasterChef Australia kitchen as a judge, chef Andy Allen’s journey has been deliciously inspiring. 

His other achievements include partnering with his friend and actor Travis Fimmel to create the low-carb and mid-strength beer Travla. In 2023, Andy visited India for the first time to collaborate with ITC’s luxury chocolate brand Fabelle and create chocolates inspired by Australian flavours. This was also the time when he expressed his deep desire to work with the team at Hunger Inc.’s other restaurant, The Bombay Canteen. Within a few months, Andy found himself back in India, collaborating with The Bombay Canteen’s sister restaurant, O Pedro.

Photo Credit: Hunger Inc. Hospitality

Describing what having Andy in the kitchen was like, Hussain Shahzad, Executive Chef, Hunger Inc., says, “His infectious spirit and openness to ideas made the collaboration an absolute delight. The entire kitchen team was buzzing with excitement and honour to have him join us.” 

The menu

The limited-edition menu celebrates Australia’s food and drink landscape, and its fresh produce, especially shining the spotlight on native ingredients such as Davidson plum, Macadamia nuts, paperbark, finger lime, and seafood. Expect to tuck into juicy chicken sausages in a rich brown sauce paired with pillowy-soft white bread, or try a unique combination of flavours with the buffalo tataki with lobster, creme fraiche and green tomato.

Photo Credit: Hunger Inc. Hospitality

The Macadamia nuts feature in a salad accompanied by smoky burnt eggplant yoghurt, pearl barley, and grape vinegar. In the mains, you’ll find interesting BBQ prawns coated in Chinese XO sauce-flavoured butter and a wood-roasted Spatchcock infused with fiery fermented chilli and roasted corn, baked in O Pedro's stone oven. 

If you still have space for dessert, there’s Burnt Honey and Paperbark Crème Brulee. There’s also a specially curated list of Australian wines, including the Black Shiraz, with aromas of blackberry and plum, and the Metal Label Rose, bursting with notes of watermelon, rose petals, cranberry, and strawberry cream, among a list of others. 

In a freewheeling chat with Slurrp, Chef Andy Allen talks about his special menu, his time in Mumbai and his wish to return to the city again.

You started at the age of 17.  What got you interested in cooking?

It was very early on in life when I realised that food brings people together. I wasn’t a great cook at all, but the moment I realised how happy it made me to get my friends and family around to my house for a BBQ in the backyard, I knew I wanted to delve deeper into this passion.  

How did the collaboration with O Pedro happen? 

On my last trip to India, I had the chance to dine at the Bombay Canteen and chat with Chef Hussain about a possible collaboration. Fast forward just four months, and we were standing in O Pedro, creating amazing dishes together. We wanted to blend the laid-back charm of Australia with Goa's vibrant energy, showcasing the best of both worlds.

We focused on creating dishes that seamlessly blended Australian elements with familiar Indian flavours. Our ingredients are incredibly versatile, and we wanted to showcase that by incorporating native Australian produce like macadamia nuts and finger limes into dishes that would appeal to the Indian palate. It's been such a joy working with Chef Hussain, who shares the same passion for food. We've put together a menu we're really proud of, and we can't wait for folks in Mumbai to try it.

Photo Credit: Hunger Inc. Hospitality

Tell us more about the menu, especially some of the native ingredients you are showcasing.

One of the standout dishes is the buffalo tataki with lobster, pickled green tomatoes, and finger lime. The buffalo is marinated and seared to perfection, providing a rich flavour profile that pairs beautifully with the lobster and coral sauce. The finger lime adds a refreshing zest that cuts through the richness and beautifully balances the dish. Another special dish is the Burnt Honey and Paperbark Creme Brulee. This dessert really spotlights the intensity of native ingredients, with carefully caramelised honey and burnt paperbark steeped in the creme brulee base. 

What's the most important thing about Australian flavours that Indian diners must know?

Australian cuisine is incredibly diverse and versatile, deeply influenced by our multicultural roots. There is a strong emphasis on fresh, high-quality produce with vibrant, clean flavours that allow natural ingredients to shine. Australia’s modern outlook on food means that vegetarian and vegan options or substitutes are widely available. Our native ingredients are particularly special and intense, requiring careful handling, which adds to the excitement of creating uniquely Australian dishes that also appeal to a global palate.

Video Credit: Australian Macadamias

What challenges did you face in introducing Australian flavours and ingredients to the local palate in India?

It was an exciting journey of discovery and experimentation rather than a challenge. Our ingredients are versatile, so we focused on creating dishes that seamlessly blended Australian elements with familiar Indian flavours. For example, we’ve included macadamia nuts, one of Australia’s oldest and most cherished nuts, with so much to offer in a well-put-together dish. It fits seamlessly into the menu, appealing to the Indian love for nuts in cuisine while adding a uniquely Australian touch. So, trying to create that blend and do justice to the nut while also impressing an Indian eater, was a challenge I accepted wholeheartedly.

What did you think of Mumbai? 

There wasn’t a single thing I didn’t love about this city—its energy made me feel right at home, just like in Melbourne. I met some incredible people and enjoyed amazing food. I definitely plan to come back for more of what this city has to offer.