I remember writing an article in 2020 for HuffPost Australia, titled "They Can Cook And Sing, But Australia Still Isn’t Ready For Diversity On Reality TV".
"We appreciate their food on MasterChef and vote for them on The Voice, but giving a rose on The Bachelor is a step too far," I wrote at the time, explaining that Australian viewers appreciate people of colour cooking food or performing on stage, but "we don’t want to hear about their personal life or dating experiences".
Last night Sydney twins Radha and Prabha (who've labelled themselves as Team Twindian) won My Kitchen Rules, after presenting a four-course menu inspired by their Indian heritage. While judges Manu Feildel, Nigella Lawson and Colin Fassnidge undeniably embraced the South Asian flavours of the twins' cooking, a wave of negative social media reactions following the grand finale indicated that some of Australia is resistant to cultural diversity in even the most "palatable" forms – ie cooking and singing shows.
"You know what I don't agree with? People sending racial negative comments about the winners to my page," Fassnidge said in a video posted to his Instagram account after the grand finale.
"In this day and age, we won't stand for it, and if your mind is so small, get over it, mate. It's a cooking competition, we're not saving lives. Be nice to people. Keep your racial abuse out of a cooking competition."
Beyond the overt racism, other social media posts have highlighted many viewers' narrow-minded perceptions of Indian food.
Some posts on X (formerly Twitter) revealed complaints about Radha and Prabha winning because they cooked multiple curries across their time on the show. They claimed that the twins failed to showcase versatility in their cooking compared to runners-up Nick and Christian.
"The girls chucked chicken and rice into a pot, the boys showed versatility and skills with each dish. Yawn #MKR," one person wrote.
Another wrote that Nick and Christian "showed more fine dining skill and culinary technique".
While curries are unquestionably a huge staple in Indian cooking, there is greater diversity in South Asian cuisine, influenced by geography, ingredients and tradition. The stereotype that Indian food can't be technical because it doesn't resemble the western ideal of what fine dining looks like, is also exhausting.
With their family hailing from the state of Kerala in South India, Radha and Prabha leaned into their heritage, cooking dishes such as Kerala Prawn Curry during the grand finale. However, they say they tried to showcase cuisine from different regions of India, such as "cooking North dishes like jalebi".
"It is not just about curries, it is very multi-layered," Prabha told Draw Your Box. "It is very complex," she added, explaining it involves "understanding the balance, and then on top of that, understanding how each spice interacts with each other".
"Biryani is not a curry, it is a spice rice dish," Radha added. "Our eggplant and potato was not a curry, it was just sauteed in a few spices and provided as condiments.
"Instead of taking that as backlash [because] of the way we cooked, I take that as an opportunity because I believe that there's a gap in the knowledge of how Indian food is represented in such a westernised culture in Australia.
"To everyone that put those comments out there, we're not offended," she continued.
While plans of how to spend their $100,000 prize money are not set in stone, Radha and Prabha hope to use some of the funds to release a cookbook, and eventually open a cafe of their own. No matter what their next step is, they promise it will align with their mission to "show exactly what Twindian food is all about".