Milan Bhayana’s online fame began with a video he and his older sister Malaika made last Thanksgiving of the Beef Wellington he cooked. Little did he know the video would go viral and he would end up on a cooking reality show.
Milan, a 15-year-old sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, is one of 13 young chefs from across the country who recently appeared on the Peacock series “Top Chef Family Style.” The show pairs each contestant with an adult family member. The first episode of the series airs Thursday.
Milan describes himself as a “very picky” eater when he was younger, a characterization his mother, Chandrani Ghosh, agrees with.
He told Bethesda Beat last week that he started cooking when he was 7 or 8, but the real epiphany came when he saw “The Hundred-Foot Journey” – a film about competing restaurants in a French village.
“They made a really nice omelet, and up until that year I was allergic to eggs, and I remember when I got home I really wanted to make a fancy egg dish,” said Milano. “And so I tried to make an omelet for the first time, and my mom taught me. That’s when I really started perfecting recipes rather than cooking once in a while.
From then on, Milan realized that cooking his own meals was the way to tailor food to his preferences.
Ghosh said his son has always had a “very demanding palate”.
“I think he got into cooking because he knows what he wants to eat, and it’s really to satisfy his own very demanding way of eating,” she said.
Milan flexed its culinary muscles last Thanksgiving by whipping up beef Wellington. His sister posted a 15-second video of it on her TikTok account, challenging celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay to give his reaction. The Beef Wellington video has attracted over 2 million views.
The siblings then began making videos together regularly. Milan will usually spend a day cooking a dish, and Malaika will sporadically film shots of him in action, Ghosh said.
Later, Malaika collects the clips into TikTok videos that are usually less than a minute long and provides narration. Producing a video can take up to 10 hours, Ghosh said.
As of Tuesday, Milan and Malaika had produced more than 40 videos together, some of which had millions of page views. A video, posted in May, shows Milan making meat-stuffed tortellini and garnered more than 8 million views.
The videos became so popular that “Top Chef” representatives contacted Milan to tell him about the show, he said.
“At first I thought it was a joke. I thought it was someone laughing at me. But it ended up being the real ‘Top Chef’. And I started the process application the same day and I ended up going to Los Angeles to compete,” he said.
Milan had to qualify through several preliminary rounds before traveling to Los Angeles as runners-up. During the preliminary rounds, he broadcast his cooking skills to the judges via Zoom, Ghosh said. The Los Angeles shoot that followed took place among the final 13 contestants, she said.
Ghosh and Milan worked as a team on the show. She said the show followed strict COVID-19 protocols, which included keeping all contestants in the same hotel and testing everyone three or four times a week. Milan received her first shot of the vaccine during the taping because that’s when it became available to teenagers her age, she said.
Due to a nondisclosure agreement, Milan and his mother are limited in what they can reveal about the show before it airs. But he said last week he particularly enjoyed having his food judged by celebrities, including Meghan Trainor, JoJo Siwa and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
He said being on the show was a unique experience. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said.
Bhayana had a previous moment of glory. At 13, he took part in an international tournament for the Magic card game in Barcelona, as one of the youngest players to compete at the professional level.
He said last week that he has always retained his passion for the card game and enjoys teaching it to others.
Bhayana said her friends were all “super excited” for her TV appearance this week on “Top Chef Family Style”.
“They all watch the show religiously,” he said.
Dan Schere can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org