Cooking for Love

Interview with “Cooking for Love” Hosts, Sarah Benjamin and Nik Imran

Whether you love to cook or just love food, the “Love To Cook” series presented by Panasonic Cooking and Asian Food Channel (AFC) will entertain and inspire you, starting in October with the third season of Cooking For Love.

After two seasons of watching Sarah and Nik battle it out – let’s find out what they both really think of each other, are they like oil and water or peanut butter and jelly?

The reason why I started to cook….

Sarah: I started cooking when I was a kid, because I loved the feeling of sitting my family down and feeding them food they’ve never tasted before or food they remember from their childhood, and seeing the smiles on their faces. When I realized that my cooking could bring happiness, I was hooked!

Nik: My chef dad was often cooking at home for family & friends while I would help him set the table and be the host of the night. As I grew used to the kitchen, he would pile on more tasks for me until I started making Crepes Suzette for these dinner parties. That’s what got me into the kitchen!

What does cooking mean to me?

Sarah: To me, cooking means knowing exactly what someone wants to eat and hitting that spot. There are lots of fancy chefs out there who are all about demonstrating their new ingredients and new techniques, and although I really love that kind of cooking, it’s not what I do. I’m all about really figuring out what the perfect dish for the occasion is, and then getting everyone over to the table to dig in together.

Nik: Generosity. It’s about giving away a part of yourself in every meal. 

Sarah Benjamin
What type of cuisine do I love to cook?

Sarah: I come from a multicultural background, and I love to travel and discover new food, so I love so many different cuisines! I’m a fan of bringing different cultures together with my food, but if I always come back to one cuisine for inspiration, it has to be Nyonya or Peranakan food. I think of Peranakan food as the original ‘fusion’ cuisine, blending Malay and Chinese flavors and techniques, so it’s something that I love to learn about and experiment with in the kitchen.

Nik: This is a tough one. I love them all! Southeast Asian, Italian, French, American, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, they are all amazing cuisines. But if I had to choose one to cook for the rest of my life, it would be Malaysian cuisine. Specifically, the ‘kampung’ kind of meals. 

Nik Imran
What does it mean to you when you hear “Love To Cook”

Sarah: I love being in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, and making up new dishes. But for me, “Love to Cook” means more than just that. Loving to cook means putting your love into the food because of who you’re about to feed it to. It could be your family, your friends, or even a group of people you don’t know. On Cooking For Love, I’ve cooked for families who want to celebrate together, and when you can feel the love between them, you know that you have to put love into your food, because I want them to be able to taste it.

Nik: On our show Cooking For Love, both Sarah and I go head-to-head coming up with the best dish we can for our guests, but what prevails at the end of each cook off is (even though we’re super competitive with each other) the fact that our guests enjoyed themselves. Sometimes it’s one dish that invokes childhood memories, sometimes it’s the synergy between our dishes but in the end, as long as it’s a successful party, we love to cook.

One ingredient I love and would use it in every dish, if possible!

Sarah: If I could only choose one ingredient to use in every dish, I would probably have to say… eggs! Eggs have got to be the most versatile ingredient ever – they are essentials in breakfast, they are a base for cakes and ice cream, and when you’re cooking up a lovely, savory main course, adding a fried egg or poached egg with a gloriously golden runny yolk takes the whole dish to a new level.

Nik: I believe a chef’s love interest in an ingredient or dish is usually persuaded by their mood. It could be fast food on one day or a Michelin starred dish on another. At the moment, the Musang King Durian season is almost over in Malaysia and I’m getting serious cravings for it. Brb, gonna go get some durian!

Nik Imran & Sarah
What has it been like working with each other for so many seasons and are you true rivals or best friends forever?

Sarah: Working with Nik is always so much fun, he is like the little brother I always wanted. We have lots in common, mainly food! But we always have plenty to talk about in our downtime, whether it’s amazing holiday spots, TV Shows or just watching silly YouTube videos together. On party day though, we’re both laser focused on cooking until all the food is served, so that sense of rivalry always comes back then.

Nik: I love working with Sarah. It’s almost like she’s the sibling I never had and since we’re the same age and grew up in the same 90s era, we relate on so many levels. I think there is a sense of rivalry there but she isn’t as competitive as I am so it could be one sided!

Who will take home the crown for this season?

Sarah: We don’t really keep score because we approach each party as a separate event and I know Nik feels the same as me when I say that we’re always concentrating on doing our best to cook for the family of the moment at each party.

Nik: I am hoping for another tie so it ends the season on a well-balanced note and drives through the contention of our guests because it is the most important part of the whole show, not the competitiveness.

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