Nambie Jessica Marak: A ‘masterchef’ from Meghalaya who aims to empower her community

YouTuber Nambie Jessica Marak from Meghalaya stole the limelight after bagging the MasterChef India 2023 first runner-up position. Apart from making Meghalayan cuisine popular, she is also making efforts to empower people of her village.
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Nambie Jessica Marak is the first runner-up of MasterChef India 2023. Image courtesy: Nambie Jessica Marak
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 4 Jan 2024, 06:15 pm IST
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Nambie Jessica Marak from Meghalaya describes herself as an “entrepreneur at heart who is cooking up success in business”. The culinary expert is not only the “MasterChef India 2023” first runner-up, but also has a successful YouTube channel, Eat Your Kappa, with nearly 50,000 subscribers. She has a keen interest in pickling, through which she is trying to empower the people of Upper Rangsa, a remote village in the West Khasi Hills of her home state.

In an interview with Health Shots, Nambie Jessica Marak, who has often showcased her mastery over black rice, talks about MasterChef India, hailing from a matrilineal society and her love for cooking.

Nambie Jessica Marak
Nambie Jessica Marak during MasterChef India. Image courtesy: Nambie Jessica Marak

Excerpts from the interview

Q. Congratulations on being the first runner-up of “MasterChef India 2023”. What does this recognition mean to you?

Nambie Jessica Marak: MasterChef India was unbelievable for me. I never expected to get this far. For me, to get in top 12 was a big achievement. After that, the goal seemed to get closer and closer. I kept working hard. The whole journey was an incredible experience.

Q. Last year, the Meghalaya government honoured you for promoting the state’s tribal cuisine. How do you plan to use all this fame and recognition for the betterment of people of Meghalaya?

Nambie Jessica Marak: The name or tag that the chief minister or the art and culture department has given to me is that of a culinary and cultural ambassador. I want to take Meghalayan cuisine to the rest of the world. When people talk about Indian cuisine, it is mostly butter chicken and biryani. Nobody knows about black sesame chicken or the different ingredients available in my side of the country. As the culinary ambassador, there is a responsibility on my shoulders. I want to show the beauty of our cuisine and culture to others. A few years ago, I quit my job in Chennai and moved to my home state. My husband (from Tamil Nadu) and I are trying to empower the people in my village. Their life revolves around farming. They don’t know much about how to sell their produce or products. I do a lot of pickling, so I would like the farmers to grow stuff for me so that I can buy from them.

Q. What made you leave your job in the education sector and get into pickling?

Nambie Jessica Marak: The art of pickling came from my mother itself. I remember when I was in school, my friends used to enjoy eating them. I started pickling after moving to my village. I saw so many vegetables and fruits going to waste. For me, sustainability is important. So I use local vegetables and fruits for homemade pickles. Right now, I am just taking orders on social media. My orders come from Gujarat, Mumbai, Pune, Texas, Singapore, Paris and more. My business is on a small scale and I personally talk to my customers.

Nambie Jessica Marak
Nambie Jessica Marak with fellow MasterChef India contestants. Image courtesy: Nambie Jessica Marak

Q. Before moving back to Meghalaya, you were in the education sector. Do you plan to do anything related to teaching?

Nambie Jessica Marak: I was in the education field for a while. I travelled to and fro and worked as a freelance trainer. I used to train engineering students. I taught them soft skills and English language. I come from a matrilineal society, so I have to take care of my family. Before settling down in Meghalaya, my mom had a terrible fall and almost got paralysed. Me and my infant daughter stayed back. A few years later, my husband, who was teaching in a university in Tamil Nadu also left his job and we started working on a farm. Last year, we were approached by the village head who requested us to adopt a school that had been abandoned. We have been in the education field, and we wanted to open a school. So, we adopted it. We now have 85 kids in the school and it feels rewarding. I cook for the children once in a while. I enjoy feeding them. Me and my husband also look into administration work.

Q. You are also popular for your YouTube channel Eat Your Kappa. What made you start this channel in 2016?

Nambie Jessica Marak: I was studying in Chennai at the time. I got tired of eating masala dosa and biryani. So, I started looking for home food. The recipes available online were limited or were not in English language. I saw an opportunity there. I started making videos on Meghalayan recipes and northeast cuisine in general in English. Then I got noticed because of it.

Q. When you are not cooking, what else keeps you busy?

Nambie Jessica Marak: People often think that I live a leisurely life and that I enjoy the clean air of the village. It is true to some extent, but I am so busy with the farm, school and my daughter that I don’t have time for anything else. I am working 24/7, and loving it.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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