'MasterChef Australia's Sumeet Saigal Resigned From Her Job – But It's All Been Worth It

"It is a very big one, but also a very easy decision for me to make because food has been such a big passion for me."

MasterChef Australia 2024 contestant Sumeet Saigal

MasterChef Australia 2024 contestant Sumeet Saigal. Image Source: Channel 10

MasterChef Australia has helped launch the food careers of many home cooks over the years, and 2024 contestant Sumeet Saigal has gone to great lengths to show her commitment to the process. 

The 46-year-old from NSW resigned from her job as a sales manager in order to appear on the popular cooking show, saying the decision to do so was an absolute no-brainer.

“It is a very big one, but also a very easy decision for me to make because food has been such a big passion for me,” Saigal tells Draw Your Box.

The Punjabi contestant says it essentially came down to timing, with her 17-year-old twins being a great source of encouragement for her to audition. 

“Life has always sort of taken over and not allowed me the opportunity to really deep dive into this passion of mine,” she explains. “When this opportunity came along, I guess I was at a fork in the road where I had to sort of say to myself, ‘How many more years am I going to just keep doing things that yes, I do enjoy, but are a means to an end?’” 

Admitting she’s taken a great “leap of faith”, Saigal says that pursuing a food career has been a bucket list item, and making MasterChef part of that is the icing on the cake. 

“It's something that has been such a lifelong passion for me that I feel like it would be the only thing I would regret if I hadn't done… and what better platform than MasterChef Australia? I mean, it's the biggest cooking show in the world.”

Saigal has certainly got that right, with MasterChef Australia entering its 16th season this year after premiering back in 2009. The show has helped pave the way for many former contestants’ culinary careers, including the likes of South Asians such as Kishwar Chowdhury, Depinder Chhibber, Minoli De Silva, Sashi Cheliah and Ogni co-owner Rashedul Hasan to name a few.

When it comes to Saigal’s signature cooking style, she naturally draws on the flavours and ingredients she grew up eating in Bangalore. 

“Punjabi food was always what we would have on the table for dinner or lunch and in our lunch boxes at school, but I went to school in Bangalore,” she reflects. With classmates from various parts of South India as well as Bombay, Calcutta and Gujarat, she was exposed to a variety of Indian food. 

“It was such a melting pot of different types of foods that I was introduced to, just from the fact I was North Indian and born and brought up in the South.” 

The cast of MasterChef Australia 2024

The cast of MasterChef Australia 2024. Image Source: Channel 10

Since moving to Australia when she was 21, Saigal has enjoyed seeing the evolution of the Indian food scene in Australia. More restaurants have popped up over time, along with a greater variety of dishes from different regions. However, she believes there’s still a way to go in quashing stereotypes about what Indian food truly represents.

“My mission in terms of my food dreams is just to debunk the myths that surround Indian food,” says Saigal.

“People generally fear making it a staple part of their weekly family meals because they think, ‘Oh, there’s 100 spices I need to buy, it’s a whole different pantry that I need. It may be too complicated or it’s too spicy or too rich or it’s got too much butter or cream and I’m going to be bloated.’ But actually, Indian food can be so flavourful, so light, gentle and sophisticated in its use of spices and mixes,” she explains. 

Regardless of how her MasterChef journey pans out, Saigal has her eyes firmly set on a future food career that involves demonstrating how versatile Indian food can be.

“I’ve always thought of a range of sauces or spice blends or chai masala that are accessible to the average Australian household to be able to make it part of their weekly staple shop,” she hints about potential future ventures.

MasterChef Australia 2024 judges Sofia Levin, Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow and Jean-Christophe Novelli

MasterChef Australia 2024 judges Sofia Levin, Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow and Jean-Christophe Novelli. Image Source: Channel 10

Saigal is competing on MasterChef alongside 21 other home cooks for a chance to win $250,000 in prize money. They are Alex Crisp, Darrsh Clarke, David Tan, Gillian Dinh, Harry Butterfield, James Holmes, Jonathan Hooper, Josh Clarke, Josh Perry, Juan De La Cruz Torales Villarreal, Khristian Walker, Lachlan Whittle, Lily Davies, Lourdes Leschen, Mimi Wong, Nat Thaipun, Savindri Perera, Snezana Calic, Steph Griffen, Stephen Dennis and Sue Bazely.

The judges this year are Andy Allen, Poh Ling Yeow, Sofia Levin and Jean-Christophe Novelli. 

MasterChef Australia 2024 premieres on Monday, April 22 at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.