The show starts streaming on NBC’s Peacock on September 9. The Bethesda, MD, teen is a TikTok star and number two ranked player on “Magic Online.”
After making waves on the popular card game “Magic: The Gathering” Indian American whiz kid Milan Bhayana is donning the apron on a cooking reality show with his journalist mother by his side.
The 15-year-old sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Maryland, two years ago became one of the youngest players ever to make it to the professional circuit of “Magic,” created by mathematician Richard Garfield.
And now he is trying his hand in the kitchen with a dozen other young chefs from across the country, he is competing on the Peacock series “Top Chef Family Style.”
Read: Meet Milan Bhayana, the 13-year-old Indian American whiz kid who qualified for ‘Magic: The Gathering’ Pro Tour (May 17, 2019)
The show pairs each youth contestant with an adult family member. He was joined by his mother Chandrani Ghosh. The first episode of the series airs on Thursday, September 9.
“It was a privilege and an experience I’ll remember forever to compete on ‘Top Chef Family Style’ with my mom,” Milan, son of Ghosh and entrepreneur Rohit Bhayana, told the American Bazaar in an interview.
“It was really a once in a lifetime experience,” he said recalling meeting celebrity hosts Meghan Trainor and Marcus Samuelson. “These people who I’ve watched on TV, heard their songs, seen them cook and now I was getting to cook for them, it was a really special experience.”
The tenth grader, who is currently ranked number two on “Magic Online” has maintained his passion for the card game and right now is fighting for that number one slot.
Read: Secrets of out of this world tastes of India (July 23, 2021)
“I’m working hard to try and qualify as the youngest player ever to make it to the Magic Online’s Champions Showcase,” Milan says as he wants “to be the best at whatever I love.”
“When I started to cook, I wanted to make the best donuts, the best biscuits, the best pizza and in Magic I wanted to play against the best,” he says. Adding with a big smile, “I wanted to meet the best, I wanted to beat the best!
“I am also motivated by a desire to share my passion with people which is why I teach Magic to young kids in the neighborhood and that’s why I enjoy doing TikTok so much.”
Milan is a social influencer with over 700,000 followers on TikTok. It’s a big number and even more impressive when you realize he’s built this viewership in less than 9 months.
Milan recalled how he and his sister Malaika started this journey when she randomly posted a video of him preparing beef Wellington for the family Thanksgiving meal last year. She posted a 15-second video on her TikTok account, challenging celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay to give his reaction. The beef Wellington video has attracted more than 2 million hits.
Read: 5 Indian food shows to work up your appetite (July 19, 2021)
The brother sister duo then started making weekly videos. Posting videos of him making everything from his grandmother’s recipe for a pressure cooker lamb chop ( he isn’t sure she would be happy that he shared her secret recipe with the world) to butter chicken and lemon bars. Several of their videos have over 5 millions views, with the most popular video, which shows him making an elaborate lasagne, has 10 million views.
A few months into making TikTok videos to his disbelief, he got an email from Top Chef. “Why would Top Chef be emailing a random kid out there?” Milan wondered if it was a prank email. It was the real deal and he ended up applying for the show. It was a long application process, and after many rounds of Zoom based tests, he was flown out to Burbank, California.
“Filming took many weeks. It was a long process we were working basically working 6 days a week while doing school online too, but it was a lot of fun. I met amazing young chefs from across the country. There were kids from Louisiana to Alaska to Hawaii.”
“My mom was my sous chef during the show,” says Milan, noting the unique show format of putting an adult family member with the kids put a “really interesting spin on the classic dynamic because there was more than just kid versus kid going on there in the kitchen. You had to deal with family drama too!”
Read: ‘Top Chef’ host Padma Lakshmi to receive 2016 Ellis Island Medal of Honor (May 3, 2016)
The mother-son team “cooked a whole lot of different dishes – we cooked a lot from our Indian heritage but also a lot of modern American dishes I enjoy eating.”
“One thing that was really brought home by the show was the importance of family and how much closer I’ve gotten to my mother because of the show,” says Milan.
Magic continues to be a passion of Milan. “When I do have free time outside of Magic and cooking and school, I like to do Taekwondo,” he says. “I have a black belt. Pre-Covid I used to be an assistant teacher at my Taekwondo studio. And I’m 15 years old so obviously I love to hang out with my friends.”
Milan’s mother Ghosh said “I think he got into cooking because he loves good food and knows what he wants to eat. And he is willing to put in the hours of work needed to produce exactly what he wants to eat.”