Interviews

  • Stars of gastronomy
  • Date: 2015-11-19
  • Our f&b special issue would have been just incomplete without these masters of food. In a tête-à-tête with HC, they share their inspiration, journey and more...
    By  |  Rachita Sehgal

     


    SANJEEV KAPOOR
    Unarguably, he is one of the most recognised faces of Indian television. He was in people’s living rooms for almost two decades introducing them to the delights of Indian and international cuisine in his inimitable easy going and cheery manner. The show Khana Khazana was one of those trailblazing cookery shows on Zee. Little wonder then that he has a massive fan following across all age groups, genders and countries!

     


    1. What inspired you to take up cooking as a profession?
    Seeing my late father dish-up delicious dishes was a definite pull for me towards this profession. Besides this, my habit of going on the road less travelled also helped me take up cooking as a career. 

     


    2. What according to you is that one thing that makes Indian cuisine unique?
    The number of unique vegetarian recipes that each region offers is what makes Indian cuisine stand apart from the rest.

     


    3. After cooking for as long as you have, how do you manage to keep your recipes fresh and inspired?
    I made a promise to myself not to cook a dish twice, and that helps greatly. To keep cooking in new and unique ways is not difficult if you believe it’s just a matter of playing with different ingredients, and if you have the confidence that whatever you do, will work! No matter what combinations you throw together, the dish will work out if you just cook with an upbeat attitude and positive energy.

     


    4. A memorable kitchen moment?
    I enjoy every moment in my kitchen!
    5. Which is your favourite cooking ingredient?
    I love the Indian spices such as cumin seeds and black pepper.

     


    6. Who’s your favourite chef?
    Too many to name!

     

    7. Apart from Indian, which cuisine do you enjoy cooking the most?
    Asian is an all-time favourite! Besides that, I love Arabic cuisine.

     

    8. Your signature dish.
    Shaam Savera 

     

    9. Where do you see the Indian F&B moving?
    The Indian F&B’s future is bright and I see all chefs, including me, working very-very hard towards it.

     

    10. In such a competitive market, what according to you makes a restaurant brand successful?
    Food that will touch the heart of people will be successful. Food connects with a person on many levels. If you serve food that is cooked with passion, if you serve food that’s just right for the market, that understands the pulse of the people, you will be successful. This comes with research and meticulous planning. 

     

    11. One thing about you that the world doesn’t know.
    …is that I’m not from this planet!

     

    12. What advice can you give to aspiring chefs?
    To all the people who like to cook Indian food, I would tell them to spend more time in India. Go to all the varied and beautiful regions and familiarise yourself with the ingredients available during different seasons. Learn about the unique ingredients themselves – how they smell, taste, and feel. You’ll never really master the art of Indian cooking if you’re not close to the land and heritage because great Indian cooking isn’t something you can do without intimate knowledge. And my advice to anyone who wants to cook good food is that one should start appreciating food no matter who has cooked it.

     

     

    He has been conferred the ‘Best Chef of India’ award by the GoI. He represented India in the World Association of Chefs’ Societies (WACS) in South Korea, and he introduced them to the wonders of the ancient Indian way of Ayurvedic cooking. He has done cookery shows all over the globe with famous culinary personalities such as Rachel Ray, Richard Quest and Rene Redzepi. And he is also known as the Rachel Ray of India. He has also cooked for many dignitaries, including the Honourable PM Shri Narendra Modi. His website www.sanjeevkapoor.com which has more than 13,000 recipes, attracts more than nine million page views per month and over 3.5 million fans follow him on Facebook. He won the ‘Most Popular Website’ award in 2013 and ‘Best Website’ award in the Food and Beverages category in 2014. He is on the board of Singapore Airlines International Culinary panel.

     

    VIKAS KHANNA

    Vikas is an award winning Michelin starred Indian chef, restaurateur, cookbook writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and the judge of the TV show MasterChef India. He is based in New York City. In 2011, People magazine named Khanna in the list of ‘Sexiest Men Alive’ and also referred to him as ‘The Hottest Chef of America’, owing to, among other things, his very charming smile.

     

     

    1. What inspired you to take up cooking as a profession?
    My grandmother, we call her Biji. She taught me how to cook. I understood the power of food when I was just a child, just observing my family and friends at mealtimes. Food was the center point, when everyone sat together at the table and shared life and every celebration of togetherness. It was and is the most inspiring part of my profession, even today! Cooking is something very spiritual to me, a sacred expression of art. Growing up in Amritsar, where food is celebrated every moment, something that was a passion for me became a profession and is very close to my heart.

     

     

    2. What according to you is that one thing that makes Indian cuisines unique?
    The use of spices, and techniques, it is the only cuisine based on the concept of Ayurveda– healing of the body and mind.

     

     

    3. A memorable kitchen moment?
    The preparation and ritual of cooking, puffing of the breads, rolling them, watching food came to life– from street vendor to kitchen to family table - each moment is memorable to me.

     

     

    4. Which is your favourite cooking ingredient?
    Salt– though it is seamless, it elevates and supports all the other ingredients.

     

     

    5. Name five ingredients that you always keep handy.
    Cardamom, you can never go wrong with it. Imli, I’d even say it’s far more handy than lemon, hing, desi ghee, I’m a true Punjabi and it holds a lot of nostalgia for me. And lastly, salt. Yes, it’s overrated but it can transform a dish like no other [ingredient]. It’s a humble ingredient but it can make or break your career.

     

     

    6. Who’s your favourite chef?
    Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay, Rachel Ray.

     

     

    7. Apart from Indian, which cuisine do you enjoy cooking the most?
    I love the simplicity of Bhutanese and Tibetan cuisine, but I also undeniably love the way the French have represented their food to the world. But my ultimate indulgence is the Modern American Cuisine– Daniel Humm, Thomas Keller

     

     

    8. Your signature dish.
    So many favourite dishes that I don’t like to name just one, they vary from time to time– right now my favourite is North-East Indian cuisine.

     

     

    9. Where do you see the Indian f&b moving?
    Global standardisation of Indian cuisine - to new heights, see them at par with Italian and French restaurants

     

     

    10. In such a competitive market, what according to you makes a restaurant brand successful?
    Reinvention is the answer.

     

     

    11. If you weren’t a chef, what do you think you’d be doing? 
     I answer promptly to that: a farmer. It’s the profession that keeps us closest to Mother Earth and love for our life through food.

     

     

    12. What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started? 
    I have a mantra that I tell everyone, who is beginning their journey in this industry. ‘feed as much as you are able to, but stay hungry as much as you can to learn.’ It’s important, especially in today’s internet-connected world, to reinvent as much as you can.

     

    Khanna was awarded a Michelin star for his restaurant Junoon by Michelin Guide for 2012, and 2013. He was awarded GQ India Man of the year 2012 on September 30, 2012 in Mumbai by GQ Magazine. He was featured on the cover of Mens Health India Magazine - October 2012.In 2011, he was awarded the ‘Rising Star Chef Award’ by Star Chefs for his role in shaping the future of American Cuisine. On March 29, 2011, Khanna’s restaurant Junoon received a favourable review from Sam Sifton in The New York Times.He was voted ‘New York’s Hottest Chef’ in a poll conducted by the New York Eater blog. On July 29, 2011, Khanna hosted dinner for the Hindu American Seva Charities Hindu American Seva Charities Conference held at the White House organized by Anju Bhargava, who is a member of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Khanna was featured in the Top sexy and successful list of Anokhi Magazine in their 5th Anniversary Issue.

     

     

    RANVEER BRAR

    Born in Lucknow, it was somewhat inevitable that Ranveer would be fascinated with the city’s street kebab vendors. When he was17 years of age, one such kebab ustad, Munir Ahmed, tutored Brar on the finer points of kebab making. That was the epiphanic moment that made him choose cooking as his calling.

     

     

    1. What inspired you to take up cooking as a profession?
    I was inspired by the connect that Lucknow has to its food and culinary heritage and the pride and passion that the city exudes for its cuisine.

     

     

    2. What according to you is that one thing that makes Indian cuisines unique?
    The fact that our cuisines are old and have developed over many centuries, makes them unique and interesting. Also, most of our food is guided by the principles of nutrition and inherent well being which makes it unique. I think Indian cuisine has the most depth and variety compared to any other cuisine in the world. Some aspects of this varied cuisine have been superbly well represented because of either patronisation by masses or familiarity to current trends. This has driven Indian cuisine to compete with the likes of Chinese and Italian cuisines respectively. Indian Chefs have contributed spectacularly to represent Indian cuisine in a way that is understandable to the world. Yet, there’s a lot more than can be put out there from the Indian cuisine repertoire. That’s where we have the edge and a very promising future. 

     

     

    3. A memorable kitchen moment?
    When I was given a ‘Chef’s Scarf’ at the Taj after two years of management training. It was a big dream come true moment for me as it was a culmination of years of effort and the start of my professional journey. 

     

     

    4. Which is your favourite cooking ingredient?
     Truffle oil as it has a lot of character and in my recent food trials I have found that it pairs really well with Indian kebabs.

     

     

    5. Who’s your favourite chef?
    Charlie Trotter will always be number one on that list for me as he embodies  the perfect balance between a chef, celebrity and an entrepreneur. 

     

     

    6. Apart from Indian, which cuisine do you enjoy cooking the most?
    I enjoy cooking Italian food a lot. After having trained under Antonio Carluccio and been touched by his passion for Italian food I regularly delve into cooking South Italian delicacies.

     

     

    7. Your signature dish.
    Dorra kebab, a sandalwood  spiced kebab cooked on silk thread on open embers.

     

     

    8. Where do you see the Indian f&b moving?
    Indian food and beverage will get more regional and local as time progresses. We are in a space where we appreciate regional and Indian flavours and are curious about discovering more about ourselves. Cuisines are not driven by political boundaries but cultural differences. Thats why we don’t see Maharashtrian restaurants coming up, but we see a lot of Kolhapuri, Malwani and Shoji restaurants that celebrate culture and cuisine making it big. 

     

     

    9. In such a competitive market, what according to you makes a restaurant brand successful?
    Being non pretentious and true to the concept have always been the foundation of a good restaurant brand, it’s the same today. However, what has changed is that today’s restaurants need to create wows out of known aspects of cuisine and familiar dishes where as the restaurants earlier created that by intimidating the audience with the unknown.

     

     

    10. One thing about Ranveer Brar that the world doesn’t know.
    I am very scared of swimming and water bodies. I have been on fishing trips on trailers and rarely looked down at the sea.

    Acknowledged by the James Beard Foundation, New York for his outstanding contribution. Received recognition for his contribution to various cuisines by several institutions such as AIWF, AICA, as also the Mayor of Boston. In addition, he has also represented India at the WPF. Featured among the top 50 chefs in the Indian Culinary Forum book. Handled banquets at the Rashtrapati Bhawan and at the Prime Minister’s residence, plus he cooked for several hollywood and bollywood celebrities, both in the US and India. Associated with the food editorial panel of DNA Mumbai and regularly contributes an article every Saturday. Featured in the book Celebrated Chefs of India by Marryam H Reshii.

     

    RAKESH SETHI

    An enthusiastic and motivated chef and team leader with extensive knowledge in all aspects of food, Sethi has practical, technical and management experience in Food and Beverages areas of a hotel and is highly experienced in launching a new hotel, restaurant or flight kitchen.

     

     

    1. What inspired you to take up cooking as a profession?
    It was my elder brother Vijay Sethi who inspired me to convert my passion for cooking into a profession. Since childhood on my return from our school, during afternoon when my mother would take a nap, I would get into kitchen along with my brother and cook something innovative and different and after we were done, we would wash all the pots and pans and clean up the kitchen as if we had done no cooking! This afternoon cooking stints were my first attempts which created in me, a lot of interest and inclination towards cooking. After passing out from school, my brother who was already pursuing hotel management, got me enrolled in to catering college, IHM, Pusa in New Delhi where I did my diploma and then began my culinary journey in 1982.

     

     

    2. What according to you is that one thing that makes Indian cuisines unique?
    Uniqueness of Indian cuisine lies in the common art of balancing the flavours and tastes of the ingredients and the subtle use of the spices despite it being a multi-cultural country where a hindi maxim explains- ‘Kos-kos par badle pani, char kos per vani’ (The taste of water changes after every one mile, while the dialect changes after every four miles)
    That is the uniqueness of our cuisine and food culture!

     

     

    3. A memorable kitchen moment?
    There has been many a memorable moment in past 33 years of my career, but I still remember the day when I was shortlisted on deputation to work in the household section of President Estate as a Senior Cook for a short period during the tenure of then President Hon’ble Shri R Venkatraman ji. It was a matter of pride for me to serve in President Estate and I still cherish the time and moments spent there.

     

     

    4. Which is your favourite cooking ingredient?
    Potato, is my favourite ingredient. I love to experiment and play around with different ingredients and keep experimenting to innovate. During the process I realised that how versatile is our simple and humble Potato! Though there are many varieties of potatoes available in India now and all of them are very unique and used in different forms, and above all it combines well with any ingredient to create an interesting combination. Its favourite of all I believe and is quite indispensible in our kitchen. 

     

     

    5. Who’s your favourite chef?
    In my working tenure and whilst travelling in various countries, I got an opportunity to work with several expatriate and Indian Chefs. There has been an exchange of knowledge and skills amongst us (Chefs),when we interact or share stove together. This working and sharing of experiences developed lots of respect and bonding with many a chefs but my favourite chef so far was my Executive Chef at The Oberoi Hotel, Chef Olaf Niemier.

     

     

    6. Apart from Indian which cuisine do you enjoy cooking the most?
    I was initially trained as an Italian chef by Chef Oliver at hotel Hyatt Regency, and despite having worked in various kitchen and cuisines, I still have special love for Italian food and cooking. Over the years, I shifted to the Indian kitchen and started to cook and enjoy Indian regional cooking.
    My television show ‘Mirch Masala’ on Starplus gave me an opportunity to travel to various parts of our country and explore the regional cuisine of India.

     

    7. Your signature dish.
    I have created and worked upon many dishes which have been my signature dishes, but my recent creation ‘Cooker Ka Kukkad’ is my signature dish currently on our menu in Indian restaurant ‘Dvar’ at Radisson Blu hotel, Dwarka, New Delhi. This dish is cooked in cooker and served in same cooker, brought to your table whistling and steaming.

    In recently concluded International Chefs Day celebrated at The Ashok hotel, he was honoured to be conferred with the top most Culinary Award by the Secretary Tourism Vinod Zutshi at a glittering ceremony in recognition to his services in the Culinary field.

     

    SHIPRA KHANNA

    She is the winner of Master Chef India two. Her specialty is global cuisine, Indian, baking, desserts and fusion food and she has started two  restaurants. After winning Master Chef, she began to host her own cooking show ‘Kitchen Stars ka Safar’ She is a Restaurateur, Chef, Consultant, Author and an Anchor for TV shows.She has been awarded ‘Women Chef taking taste beyond borders’ by SAARC and SCWEC in Nepal and was representing India. She has been felicitated by the CM of Himachal Pradesh and Rotary International . She has also been awarded ‘Himachali of the Year’.

     

     

    1. What inspired you to take up cooking as a profession?
    I always loved cooking because of my Grandmother. Learned early and cooked right through. Masterchef gave me the opportunity to take it up as a profession. My personal take is that one can specialise in a certain cuisine but it’s constant learning of new techniques with global exposure that keeps a Chef growing in every way.

     

     

    2. What according to you is that one thing that makes Indian cuisines unique?
    Indian cuisine is a very broad term. The types of cuisine that bind the Indian subcontinent are very vast. Conventionally either rice and other grains or both are something that we find across Indian cuisine besides spices of course.

     

     

    3. A memorable kitchen moment?
    Making a rock solid chocolate cake! 

     

     

    4. Which is your favourite cooking ingredient?
    Fresh ground Pepper

     

     

    5. Who’s your favourite chef?
    Anthony Bordaine 

     

     

    6. Apart from Indian, which cuisine do you enjoy cooking the most?
    European, Oriental and love baking as well..! 

     

     

    7. Your signature dish.
    Yam mousse, Garam masala carrot cake with berry compote, Tandoori chicken patê, all are my signature dishes.

     

     

    8. Where do you see the Indian f&b moving?
    It has just started moving up. Food being a consumer item ensures that the demand will not stop. The essential aspects of life are food and air so I guess food becomes the only paid of the two, has the greatest market on earth. Further, time is becoming more valuable with changing world conditions, creating an immense awareness in the Indian market. I feel the start is here and it’s only one way for an industry with the highest logical potential and that’s growth ! 

     

     

    9. In such a competitive market, what according to you makes a restaurant brand successful?
    Passion, sustainability location and consistency, not to miss the hygiene. Unlike every other field, marketing does not play a long term role here. It is purely the quality of ingredients and understanding who you are catering to that is the driving force behind a successful restaurant brand.

     

     

    10. Any further information.
    Eat healthy, cook passionately and feed generously !

    She is ‘the Youngest and one of the most glamorous chefs in the world’ according to India Today. Her book ‘The Spice Route’ talks about her journey as a Chef and also displays her unique art of cooking, the book is well talked about. Her second show ‘Pure Sin’ is the first and the only dessert show in India. She has played a love guru in it and another show called ‘K for Kids’, she has taught kids how to cook with lots of fun and learning games.Shipra has recently launched her own YouTube channel called ‘Shipra's Kitchen’. She has just been roped in as the culinary connoisseur for ‘Tourism Australia’ and Cox and Kings,where she is taking a culinary journey all over Australia called ‘Masterchef Travel’.



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