100,000 Dollar Upma!

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Believe it or not, it?s true. The modest, south-Indian meal of ?Upma?, prepared in all its simplicity, managed to win the first prize at a Top Chef Master?s Contest in Los Angeles last week. The craftsman behind the making of the dish was New York?s renowned chef, Mumbai-born Floyd Cardoz.

Just like its name, the ?upma? is a humble, often considered the poor man?s meal, largely made in South India. It derives its name from its tamil roots, ?uppu? meaning salt and ?maavu? meaning flour. Therefore Uppuma(vu). The dish, being entirely inconspicuous in its ingredients or its culinary style, almost always goes overlooked, not to mention on such large platforms.

But when the competition turned tight and came down to the final three contestants at LA, the finalists were asked to prepare an inspiring dish out of their personal taste memories. Super-chef Cardoz stirred up quite a revelation of sorts, coming out with a steaming plate of upma of semolina and mushroom. Though initially the food critics and viewers put the other two finalists (Mary Sue Millikan and Tracy Des Jardins) over him, he went on to grab the top honours, thus winning a cash prize of $100,000 (around 367,255 AED).

The competition was neck to neck and Cardoz certainly didn?t have it easy. It was the final round or the ?upma? that clinched the result in his favour. The food critics vaguely described his dish as semolina pudding.

Wall Street Journal food critic, Charles Passy said it was his spunky use of authentic Indian spices and his passion that won him the prize. “He dared to do it differently, inspite it being at a crucial stage where nobody else would have taken that risk.?

Though initially quite stunned by his win, Cardoz was quick to recover and admitted that he would be donating the prize money to the Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund, as a tribute to his father, who died of cancer. “Winning means a lot to me and my family because my family has always sacrificed our family life for me to do what I do,” he said after his victory.

Well folks (especially housewives sitting at home, reading this), who thought such a banal dish you make almost every day at home could win you $100,000, isn?t it? Now doesn?t this make you feel more good about yourself!

Source: Times of India, Economic Times

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