Chef Vikas Khanna. Illustrating honesty, humanity, and professionalism.
By Chavi Sehgal
Michelin Star Chef Vikas Khanna, a celebrity face and a renowned international chef who has taken Indian Cuisine to another level by taking it out from the Indian kitchen and innovating it. Indian cuisine is acknowledged globally today and the credit goes to endowed Chefs like him.
His life looks glamorous. Isn’t it?? But behind this life, there are some inspiring stories and I bet you don’t know them. Let’s give you a glimpse of these stories.
His story of Honesty
Vikas Khanna, a young boy of Amritsar. He had a large family. He started cooking at the age of 7. He was a differently abled child until the age of 13 years. He had cluff feet in the childhood. As a child, he faced humiliation for his feet. He says that he survived this humiliation with the support of his family. At the age of 16, he opened a small banquet for kitty parties at the back of his house and named it as Laurance Garden. They didn’t even have the shelter for the kitchen in the banquet. He worked in that banquet with the help of his mother. Once his uncle took him to Delhi and there he visited Maurya Sheraton Hotel. It was his first time to visit a five-star hotel and there when he saw food of different cuisines and from that time he was determined to learn food of different cuisines.
In order to learn all this he wanted to take admission in the college but he was rejected. During the interview he very innocently told the interviewers about his business and all he does back in Amritsar. He was mocked there just because he didn’t know how to speak in English. He told the interviewers that he was aware that he was being mocked by them and he was proud of his small background and banquet. He went outside the college. He was sitting there, upset and disheartened. Suddenly the college Principal came out and he asked Vikas that why he was sitting there. Vikas told him that he is can’t go back home. He fought with his family to study in this college. The Principal asked him that if he wants to open a restaurant. He said yes but he was rejected from the college. He said he’ll learn English and come back. But the Principal told him that he can study in college because he can teach Vikas everything. He told Vikas that he can not teach Vikas the honest which he owns. He cannot teach him the pride that he has for his banquet. Vikas was selected in that college because of his honesty.
He keeps Roza, every Ramadan reason being….
After studying in the college, Vikas worked in many hotels. He was working in Sea Rock Sheraton in Mumbai in 1992 during the riots. So because of curfews he couldn’t go out of the hotel. Suddenly he came to know that riots have increased in Ghatkopar and people have set the buildings on fire. He was worried about his brother who stayed in Ghatkopar. He left for Ghatkopar. He took lift from a supply truck to reach Khar station. But the trains were cancelled. He asked people and started walking for Ghatkopar. Everywhere there were mobs and riots. At some place one Muslim family asked him that why is he roaming during the riots. He told them that he is going to Ghatkopar to find his brother.They took him inside there house and suddenly the mobs came to attack him. They asked the Muslim family about Vikas. The family told them that Vikas is there son. He is Muslim. He stayed there for one and a half day. One person from their family went to Ghatkopar and found Vikas’s brother. He was safe there. The family protected him which is a very big incident for him. After that since 1992 he keeps Roza every Ramadan to pray for the welfare of that family.
The roots of his book Utsav were laid because of racism.
Some years later he went back to Amritsar and made Laurance Garden a better place. Construction work was also done for its kitchen. But one day some government officials came and told him that the banquet is illegal. They broke the roof of the kitchen. Vikas was traumatised after that incident. His brother motivated him and told him to go to America and find your destination. He told Vikas that a bigger story is waiting for him. He did odd jobs in the initial stay in New York for his survival. He even stayed in a homeless shelter. His turning point came when he got a catering. He made trays of multilayered dhokla for them. After some time he got a job in Salaam Mumbai. After 9/11 America changed. Racism started and he became a person of colour. In 2004 he was called to James Beard House to cook food. There he gave American twist to Indian Cuisine. He was called by the dignitaries there. He was applauded for his work. That day he realized that Indian cuisine can take him forward.
A turning movement in his life came when he was sitting in a library and was writing “Holy Kitchen” which is a documentary today and was awarded in Harward and other universities in 2010.
He was sitting in the library and was writing Holy Kitchen. A foreigner read his writing piece and told Vikas that his work is very emotional but he needs to learn on his grammar. That person told Vikas that no matter how much good he writes he will always remain 10 times inferior to him because of his colour. Vikas was perplexed that how can colour be so big an issue. But it was an issue. Vikas was hurt because his colour comes from his family and his family is being insulted by this. He realized that he needs to take a stand for himself. He realized that this is his beginning. Next day Vikas went to the library and told that man that he will become a better person than him. From that day he started writing his book Utsav. He decided to open Junoon that day. It took him 14 years to complete his book Utsav. The roots of Utsav were laid by Racism.
Chef Vikas Khanna today is a successful person and a renowned chef nationally and internationally.