Q&A: Master Chef Contestant Suzy Singh on Being An Asian-American Female Chef, Part 1

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Suzy Singh has an unlikely culinary background. The Punjabi-Sikh chef was a neural engineer before she traded her lab coat for a chef's apron and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu, Chicago. Before she completed her studies, Fox TV's Master Chef picked her up for its second season.

Shortly after the national exposure, Singh opened up her own food truck in Chicago, Suzy's Samosas, and today she is a culinary consultant and director for five restaurants including Shikara and Sagar, both in Chicago. We spoke to Singh about being a minority in the culinary world and where she gets her inspiration for her Indian-French fusion dishes, like those samosas with pear chutney.

What is it like being an Asian-American chef? You're clearly a minority in the culinary world.
Not only are we Asian-American chefs, we are also women. I actually got classic French training at Le Cordon Bleu and that excelled my career because I learned the basics of classic French cuisine. I was able to create dishes that not only appealed to the Asian community, but also the American community. I was more versatile.

You were trained at Le Cordon Bleu. How did you incorporate Indian cooking with the training you had at culinary school?
There's actually a couple of different ways I did that. With Le Cordon Bleu, I took a professional cooking class. With that, I spent nine months learning not only how to create the classic French dishes, but also international cuisine. So when I was creating South-Asian cuisine, I was incorporating classic French technique into the South-Asian dishes. Le Cordon Bleu gave me the foundations to be able to cook and then I could add my own spin to it.

Where did you get your recipes?
A lot of them are a combination. I was born and raised in Chicago. My cuisine is really a representation of myself. I learned how to cook from my parents when I was really young. I started cooking when I was five. Then now that learned classic French cuisine, my recipes are really a true fusion.

What's your favorite Indian dish to make?
Butter chicken samosas in a heartbeat.

Who is your professional influence?
There's a couple of different chefs I admire. Hubert Keller is one of them. Very classically French trained. It requires so much restraint and technique. And he says that your mouth gets bored after one bite of food that's why he creates so many different items. It's pretty amazing. I also think Rachael Ray is another inspiration. She takes classic technique and she makes it accessible for the American people. And I think that's key now for the current generation - to learn how to cook without making it intimidating.

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