Milan Bhayana’s online fame started with a video he and his older sister Malaika made last Thanksgiving of the beef Wellington that he prepared. Little did he know that 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 competed 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 on Thursday.
Milan describes himself as a “very picky” eater when he was younger, a characterization that 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 good-looking 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,” Milan said. “And so I tried making an omelet for the first time, and my mom taught me. That’s where I really started to perfect recipes rather than just cooking once in a while.”
From then on, Milan realized that cooking his own meals was the way to tailor foods to his preferences.
Ghosh said her son has always had a “very discerning palate.”
“I think he got into cooking because he knows what he wants to eat, and it’s really to satisfy his own very discerning way of eating,” she said.
Milan flexed his culinary muscles last Thanksgiving by preparing beef Wellington. His sister posted a 15-second video of it to her TikTok account, challenging celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay to give his reaction. The beef Wellington video has attracted more than 2 million hits.
The siblings then started making videos together regularly. Milan will typically spend a day cooking a dish, and Malaika will sporadically film shots of him in action, Ghosh said.
Later, Malaika pieces the clips together into TikTok videos that are typically less than a minute, and provides narration. The production of one video can take up to 10 hours, Ghosh said.
As of Tuesday, Milan and Malaika had produced more than 40 videos together, with some having millions of page views. One video, posted in May, features Milan preparing tortellini stuffed with meat and has garnered more than 8 million page views.
The videos became so popular, “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 somebody messing with me. But it ended up being the actual ‘Top Chef.’ And I started the application process that very day and ended up going out to L.A. to compete,” he said.
Milan had to make the cut during several preliminary rounds before going to Los Angeles as a finalist. During the preliminary rounds, he broadcast his cooking skills to judges over Zoom, Ghosh said. The filming in Los Angeles 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 kept strict COVID-19 protocols, which included keeping all the contestants in the same hotel and testing everyone three or four times per week. Milan received his first shot of the vaccine during taping because that’s when it became available for teens his age, she said.
Due to a nondisclosure agreement, Milan and his mother are limited in how much they can reveal about the show prior to its airing. But he said last week that he particularly enjoyed having his food be judged by celebrities, which included Meghan Trainor, JoJo Siwa and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
He said being on the show was a unique experience. “It’s something once in a lifetime,” he said.
Bhayana has had a previous moment of fame. At 13, he competed in an international tournament for the card game Magic in Barcelona, as one of the youngest players to compete on the professional level.
He said last week that he has still maintained his passion for the card game, and enjoys teaching it to others.
Bhayana said his friends are all “super excited” for his appearance on TV this week in “Top Chef Family Style.”
“They all watch the show religiously,” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com