Chariya, from Basingstoke, dazzled judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace with a three-course meal inspired by her childhood in northern Thailand. Become this year’s MasterChef Champion. And her feet haven’t touched the ground yet: “I’m still up there…I haven’t come down!” This is still untrue. An amazing experience, an amazing feeling – I’m ecstatic! ” she says.
“It’s only been a few weeks and I’m not used to it.” Especially when I go to my local Sainsbury’s, people recognize me and congratulate me! I never knew such a thing.
“I did a demo at a food festival recently and people lined up outside the tent because they couldn’t get in – it was amazing. Later they asked for pictures and shook my hand – I felt like a celebrity!”
Her epic culinary experience certainly hasn’t stopped her from getting into the kitchen: “Since MasterChef, I’m still cooking every day, sometimes twice a day,” she says. In addition to making food demo recipes, I’m also working on a cookbook: brand-new South Asian cookbooks with easy-to-get, local ingredients you don’t need to go to an Asian supermarket to buy.
After sharing a personal experience of being stung by a (£9) green papaya for a Som Tum salad recipe, Chariya advises: “So, instead of the green papaya, you can substitute grated radish for what, 50p?” It may not be real, but it will give you the crunch you need.
Aside from the slew of exciting projects that come with Chariya’s win, one thing we’re all dying to know is, is there a restaurant in the works? ‘Absolutely! “In the long run, my dream is to open a restaurant, and eventually multiple restaurants, where I can showcase the cuisine of my native northern Thailand and hopefully work towards a Michelin star,” she says excitedly.
I want to show the world that northern Thai food is great, because it is. I just love seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they eat my food. ”
Chariya is passionate about making her restaurant a complete experience, saying, “I don’t want people to just walk in and eat, I want them to be wowed by everything so they think ‘I remember’!”
Chariya’s team are busy finding the perfect venue and she has settled on Hampshire. “It’s a really lovely place and I don’t have to travel too far to work every day. I have a few places in my heart… I also have a very specific idea of what kind of building I want because I really Wanted a garden. I’m not sure it would be in the city center, maybe a bit out of town, but not too far.
Chariya spent her childhood in Chiang Mai, a mountainous region in northern Thailand known for its hill tribes, lush rainforests, elephant sanctuaries and more than 300 Buddhist temples. “Everyone I’ve talked to has been to Thailand,” she told me. ‘But no one has been to Chiang Mai! They have been to islands such as Phi Phi and Phuket, but never to the north. Nobody really understands northern Thai food, so it’s my mission to show it. ”
While central Thailand and the islands only have two seasons: monsoon season and summer, the north is much cooler, Chariya explains: “In winter the temperature drops to around 15 degrees, so we often cook over a fire.” We use wooden skewers over a charcoal fire Served with sticky rice cooked until they are crispy (called “Khao Chi”), kind of like roasting marshmallows here. The smell is unbelievable – a strong childhood memory. I’d love to replicate something similar in my restaurant, maybe with fondue. ”
A popular MasterChef contestant, Zarya remains optimistic despite the tough competition she faces.
“I was there.” Honestly, I really enjoyed every minute of it – I loved being there and that’s why I didn’t feel the pressure or pressure. I think you can see this in my food too.
When asked how she found the notorious judges, Zarya replied: “Greg and John are very good people; they’re very good people. They want us to do well.” They’re like teachers; they can be strict, they give positive and negative feedback, but they want you to grow and do well. I’m someone who really likes feedback because I want to get better. I love criticism because I can learn from it and get better. I think that gives me an advantage because I listen and learn, and every time I go back, I’m better than I was the week before. Some people can’t really take criticism, but for me, I just love it!
When asked if she thought her competition was tough, Zarya replied, “Oh my god, yeah, they’re the best.” I couldn’t believe how high the bar was. The food looked like it came out of a restaurant – they looked professional. The standards are indeed high. ”
However, that didn’t stop Chariya from beating 44 entrants and beating remaining finalists Anurag Aggarwal and Omar Foster to claim the coveted title. Her winning menu starts with Thai lotus pancakes filled with coconut jelly, fried prawns and pomelo salad flavored with honey, palm sugar and coconut, which Greg describes as “fantastic and very rich”.
Chariya’s main course is a traditional northern Thai “khantoke” sharing platter, which includes wagyu sirloin steak hung in curry sauce, minced lamb with spicy tomato shrimp sauce, jackfruit scallop salad, sticky rice and scallop crackers.
“I could eat it all day,” Thorod said enthused after tasting the dish.
Chariya concludes with her rendition of strawberries and cream—strawberry jelly and vanilla cream circles filled with soaked strawberries and strawberry liqueur, pistachio sponge, strawberry pieces, and strawberry and Thai basil sauce. The dish is as much a tribute to the UK as it is to her childhood love of strawberries in Thailand, where she enjoyed them once a year with her grandfather.
“Chariya’s food has always been honest and heartfelt. It’s always exciting, it’s always unusual, it’s always beautiful and addictive,” says John Torrod. “Not just the rich, exciting Thai flavors we saw at the start, but brilliant, innovative and exciting technology from start to finish. A true master.
Co-host Greg Wallace added: “Zarya is brilliant, one of the best MasterChef contestants I can remember. She delights and surprises me equally. Some of her creations are absolutely fantastic. Beautiful – almost with an artist touch. She is one of the most creative and skilled chefs I have seen on MasterChef in a long time.
One of Chariya’s highlights on the show was meeting her idol, chef and master chef: professional host Monica Galetti. ‘Oh my God! I can not believe it. I didn’t know she was going to be a judge because Greg was unwell and she represented him. ’ she recalled.
“I thought I was going to pass out when John announced it was Monica! My face must have been red like a tomato. I couldn’t believe she was there, standing next to me, and my favorite thing was her hug My time,” she said with a laugh, and the experience still makes me dizzy.
In addition to her MasterChef stardom, Chariya is also the owner of Coffee Cherry in Alton. “I’ve been pretty busy since the final so I have a manager who runs the store and takes care of everything for me.
“Coffee roasting is very similar to cooking,” she explains, “basically I cook and blend green coffee. I blend them because sometimes single origin coffee doesn’t have the flavor you want, so I create my own. I blend Two of their coffees have been honored with the Great Taste Awards: the 2022 Alton Blend and the 2021 Celestial Blend (the coffee we use for our espresso shots in the shop).
From coffee to salivating at the famous MasterChef trophy, it’s clear we haven’t seen the last of Chariya’s delicious meal…watch this space. Chariyakitchen.co.uk)