The social media was split over Aruna Vijay’s stance with some criticising her over her pick-and-choose attitude for cooking and others praising her for her firm stand over principles.
By: Shubham Ghosh
MasterChef India, a competitive cooking reality show where aspiring chefs and food lovers from across the country showcase their culinary skills, has courted controversy after its judges allowed a vegetarian contestant to use paneer (cottage cheese) in the place of fish for a cooking challenge.
The move saw the judges facing a backlash on social media. They were accused of being biased towards the particular contestant.
The episode centred around Aruna Vijay, who used the vegetarian ingredient while four other competitors cooked with salmon in a race to clinch an “immunity pin” in order to avoid getting eliminated from the contest. Vijay belongs to the vegetarian Jain community in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
The judges, including three renowned chefs Garima Arora, Vikas Khanna and Ranveer Brar, didn’t cite any reason for their decision and other contestants also seemed to be okay in the episode that aired last week, the BBC reported.
In the episode, it was seen that the judges permitted Aruna to pick a vegetarian protein instead of fish as an ingredient of her dish. The leverage given to her did not go down well with netizens who then took to social media to accuse the judges of favouring the contestant.
Reports had said that Vijay had also declined to use eggs to cook a dish in the show earlier.
While the judges were criticised, the social media seemed to be divided over Aruna’s stand. While some said that she should have come in an exclusively vegetarian season of MasterChef or else she should cook with all ingredients, others praised her for firmly backing her principles and even letting go a handsome amount of prize money (when she refused to cook the egg-based meal and gave up her immunity pin).
The judges and the producers of the show were yet to react to the criticism, the BBC report added.
While India is often stereotyped as a largely vegetarian nation, several studies have countered the viewpoint with some researchers saying that only about 20 per cent of the country’s people are vegetarian in reality.
In 2014, the producers of MasterChef triggered a controversy by announcing an all-vegetarian season of the show. But the restriction was removed after a few seasons.
But while contestants can cook with egg, chicken and seafood, the show never sees usage of items such as beef and pork.