She majored in finance from a US university after confusion about whether she should pursue her passion for cooking or choose a "safer" career. But after winning MasterChef India 4, Abu Dhabi-based NRI Nikita Gandhi is clear that she wants to head to a culinary school and eventually, open her own restaurant.
All of 21, Gandhi was crowned India's top vegetarian chef in the cooking-based reality TV show, which concluded on Sunday.
She says she was born with a passion for cooking. "When others' kids would be watching cartoons at around a certain age, I would be with my mom in the kitchen watching her cook...I actually started cooking independently at the age of eight," she recounted.
Gandhi always harboured a desire to go to a culinary school and always wanted to make cooking her career. "But when I came to college I was in a confused state where I was like 'I don't know if I want to go to a culinary school or I want to study business' and with all that confusion, I ended up taking up a safer option that was business, finance," Gandhi told IANS.
The young chef, who was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, feared losing interest in the culinary world after joining a business school, but once she graduated from college, she realised she was still interested in cooking. That's when "Masterchef India 4" sprang up.
"I thought it was the best platform to change my career instantly," said Gandhi, who has taken home a whopping Rs.1 crore (Rs.10 million) as winner of the Star Plus show.
She says she will use part of the amount for her fee at a culinary school. "Going to a culinary school and getting professional and disciplined training has always been been my wish. I'll be more than happy to invest money from this Rs.1 crore into my education myself rather than having my father pay for it," she said.
Her future plan is to "definitely open a restaurant someday in the future", but would like to make her foundations a little stronger in this field by joining a culinary school before she goes ahead with the restaurant. "I would definitely like to open a restaurant someday in the future, but before that I feel I still have a lot to learn. I learnt a lot in 'MasterChef', but I think learning never ends.
"Age is in my favour and I have a lot of time, which I want to use in learning and building a stronger foundation before I could go ahead and open my own restaurant or do anything related to this on my own," Gandhi said.