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Interview: Anthony O'Shaughnessy and Sweta Choudhury

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Since taking part in MasterChef 2018, Sweta Choudhury and Anthony O’Shaughnessy have been rapidly growing in experience and expertise as chefs. At West Dean’s Chilli Fiesta, they chat to The National Student about the festival and their foodie experiences since MasterChef.

They both talk with warmth and bright enthusiasm, with Anthony saying that he’s ‘absolutely thrilled’ to be involved with the festival, and Sweta adding that she's ‘really excited’ about her cooking demo.

In their demos, Sweta prepares a Palestinian stuffed red pepper dish, and Anthony makes a Syrian dish, Muhammara.

Sweta and Anthony

Anthony O'Shaughnessy and Sweta Choudhury, West Dean's Chilli Fiesta

Sweta explains, ‘I chose the recipe because I’m a peace activist, and Palestine is a country really, really close to my heart. I campaign for the freedom of Palestine.

‘It’s a chilli fest, and red peppers are amazing – they’re not too hot but they’re still chillies,’ she continues. ‘It’s a healthy recipe - it’s for everyone.’

Anthony chose to cook Muhammara following the positive feedback he received about it on MasterChef. He says, ‘Not many people have heard of it before but it’s really delicious. There’s not one person I’ve given it to who doesn’t liked it.’ 

They were both keen to choose dishes that are both healthy and tasty.

‘I always emphasise about the health benefits of things that you’re putting in your food,’ says Sweta. ‘It’s not just about having a big plate of food, but what are you actually getting into your body with those spices, with those herbs, with the oils that you’re having… and what it does to your body.

‘I’m really intrigued by that,’ she says. 

Anthony says, ‘A lot of people think, when they think of healthy food, they think of it as something which isn’t very substantial… but it’s not about that at all.

‘It’s having really good ingredients that are sustaining and filling,’ he says. 

While Sweta and Anthony chat together, their close friendship is evident. Sweta says, ‘I always say, he’s the best thing that’s happened to me from MasterChef, because we get along really well.’

Anthony replies, ‘You’re definitely the best thing that’s come out of MasterChef. We’re just such good friends. 

‘We do have very different cooking styles but [we] know to learn from that and exchange things – and that’s what it’s all about,’ he says.

As they each continue to develop and progress as chefs following MasterChef, Anthony says that the show 'makes you realise how adaptable you are, and it stretches you to realise what your strengths and weaknesses are'. 

Both Sweta and Anthony have been pursuing a number of exciting opportunities since MasterChef.

Anthony is considering lots of different areas of foodie work, from private dining to charity events to vlogging. Remaining open to all opportunities, he hopes to ‘grab everything with both hands’.

While continuing work on a PhD, Sweta is also writing a cook book on Assamese food, based on the cuisine of the Indian region that she grew up in.

Describing cooking as ‘very therapeutic’, she considers it to be a great way for students to unwind.

Sweta says, ‘That one hour when you’re making your own meal - you don’t think about anything else but what’s in your fridge and what you’re going to eat.

‘I try to fit cooking in no matter how busy I am,’ she says. ‘It’s a part of me.’

As Sweta and Anthony share their excitement of working together at the Chilli Fiesta, Sweta says to Anthony, ‘Hopefully we’ll be doing much more of this in the future together.’

To find out more about West Dean College and the Chilli Fiesta, visit their website here.

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