Adi Nevgi was beyond excited when she was accepted into season 14 of MasterChef Australia in 2022 – that was until the Omicron wave of COVID made other plans for her.
A doctor of general medicine and endocrinology, Adi was desperately needed on the frontline of a busy Melbourne hospital during the pandemic and had to put her dreams of winning MasterChef on hold.
"There was no guarantee I'd be able to get on any subsequent seasons [if she applied again]," Adi, 31, explains. "I was worried this was my one shot and that I'd thrown it away. I was gutted." Despite the decision to turn down the opportunity, the "pause" only boosted her passion for cooking.
"During COVID, work was very demanding," she says. "Sometimes I'd be so stressed out about somebody sick that it would be on my mind all night. After such long hours, I'd come home and would need an outlet."
For Adi, that outlet was cooking. She would watch the season of MasterChef Australia she was meant to be on and cook along with the kitchen challenges. In a strange way, it helped prepare her for this season.
"Things turn out the way they're supposed to," she declares.
Although she grew up in an Indian household where she ate well, and has travelled to 55 countries with diverse cuisines, she says she was always a surprisingly "fussy eater".
It wasn't until later in life that she realised how "creative and academic" food could be. It's from there that her love of food grew.
"I taught myself to cook," Adi says. "And I learned everything I know just in the past few years."
Adi's obvious next step is to move into the food-education space.
"I feel strongly that cooking is something anyone can learn to do – you just need to understand some fundamentals," she shares. "I'd like to get everyone feeling more confident about cooking."