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In Conversation with ‘The brightest star of gastronomy’ – Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

04/01/2018

One of the most recognized faces of Indian television and the most acceptable face of our living rooms Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world.  With a massive fan following across all age groups, genders and countries, he has the proud distinction of being the only chef in the world to have his own channel – FoodFood. He has been conferred the ‘Best Chef of India’ award by the Government of India. He represented India in the World Association of Chefs’ Societies (WACS) in South Korea and here he introduced them to the wonders of the ancient Indian way of Ayurvedic cooking.

He is Chef extraordinaire, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best-selling cookbooks, restaurateur, and winner of several culinary awards.

His restaurants Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khazana, The Yellow Chilli, Signature, Hong Kong and Options are considered the best in their categories not only in India but abroad as well. His business of world class kitchen gadgets, Wonderchef has enabled and continues to empower women, a cause close to his heart.

Hospibuz brings an exclusive interview with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor to tread into his journey and zeal for him being a Chef.

HospiBuz: What fascinated you and made you so passionate about gastronomy? What or who is your source of inspiration or the backbone that stood beside you and motivated you throughout?

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: I come from a family of foodies, so I have always been passionate about gastronomy, but I had never planned to be a chef. Back then, I was actually preparing to be an architect. Then, just by a twist of fate, I applied for Hotel Management at The Institute of Hotel Management in PUSA, New Delhi. And my life changed! My constant and biggest source of inspiration has, is and will always be family!

HospiBuz: You are considered as ‘the most celebrated face of the Indian cuisine” and one of the first Indians to be among the top 5 celebrity chef of the world. At reaching this level please co-relate your journey as a struggle and an achiever? Could you please share some ups and downs of your successful journey?

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: I believe that one cannot savour the taste of success without a little taste of failure.  Like everyone else my journey too has seen its share of ups and downs which have shaped me into the person I am today. I have always had faith in my capabilities and never confined myself to the defined parameters of what a chef does. Looking ahead and looking beyond helped me explore amazing new avenues and go off the beaten path. Also, I have never shied away from hard work. I believed then and I know for sure now that hurdles are stepping stones for success.

HospiBuz: How does your style of cooking distinguish you from others as far as diversity is Indian Food is concerned? What is the underlying concept in your style of cooking? How do you define India food when you go for international visits? 

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: The diversity of Indian food is the source of my motivation for stamping my personal identity on each dish. The canvas is so wide that creativity is not limited. In most of the Indian dishes, we use a lot of ingredients which is not so in any other cuisine. So, I play with the ingredients, methodology and presentation to tweak in the personal touch. I like to keep things simple, but not too simple lest it gets boring. As for defining Indian food – I define it as the best!

HospiBuz: How did Indian food set an appeal to the Global palate and become so universally popular?

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: Indian food is so diverse that there is literally something in it for everybody. Plus this is the age of globalisation – the number of Indians travelling abroad versus the number of foreigners coming into India – both has amplified. Hence, exposure to good Indian food has increased manifold. Technology has brought the world together. Books, television and the World Wide Web have made the world smaller. Also, many Indian chefs settled abroad are creating names for themselves, are creating waves in the global food industry and in the process popularizing India and Indian cuisine.

HospiBuz: Please mention the cuisine that satiates your own palate. These days’ people are too conscious about their diet. In your opinion, what should be on the menu which is healthy as well as tasty and yummy?

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: The answer to both these questions will be Indian food – it satiates my palate like no other cuisine ever can and it is ultra-healthy! A traditional Indian meal is well balanced and nutritious. We need to break the myth that what is tasty isn’t healthy and vice versa. Healthy food can be mind-bogglingly delicious too.

HospiBuz: HospiBuz, being the media partner with FHW, Mumbai got an opportunity to hear your motivational and kind words where you mentioned that Indian Culinary talent should participate and win the international competitions, could you please tell us how and what should the culinary professional focus to be the part of international competition further do you think government should take some initiative to promote the culinary talent so that they can reach to the international level?

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: Indian food is very well accepted in most parts of the world today. The past few years have contributed to massive awareness about it and it has acquired a contemporary facet as well. We have so much talent in our country, we need to have more platform to showcase and promote it.Food related events and competitions are pretty much the need of the hour as it is at these places where budding chefs come out with their talents and show the world how bright the future in food is. We need to have more mediums of encouragement to kids where they also get the chance to interact with the who’s-who of the industry and get accustomed to what’s happening in the world today!

HospiBuz: It is usually difficult to come up with a menu for airlines however you have accomplished“Best Meal Concept and Innovation award” for consultation work? How is ordinary food preparation different from designing an in-flight meal? 

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: Planning an in-flight menu is a different ball game all together. First thing you need to keep in mind is that when you are at that height in a pressurized cabin, sensitivity changes – your taste buds are 30% less sensitive than they are on ground level. Other than that you need to take into consideration the fact that food will be served to the customers hours after it is prepared as opposed to in a restaurant where everything is cooked from scratch before serving. Then there are limitations when it comes to use of cutlery and having optimum space, both while serving and eating. When you are 30000 feet above the ground, you have to use technique, talent and expertise to make sure people enjoy their in-flight meal and the entire flying experience.

HospiBuz: Could you please share your experience, journey and motto behind your restaurants? How different is to manage restaurants from being the king of the kitchen?  How do you manage to keep your recipes fresh and inspired?

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: Something which I have constantly been told over the years is that people want to taste the food I cook and SK restaurants makes that possible. We currently have 70 restaurants across 6 brands in 45 cities across 10 countries – all of which come under the SK Restaurants brand.In our kitchen, innovation and creativity is a must – we work with local ingredients and experiment with traditional cooking methods.  What we bring to the table, quite literally, is exciting food that satisfies not just your taste buds but your soul too!

HospiBuz: What was the idea behind airing your popular TV show ‘KhanaKhajana’? Please share your Success Mantra for the enduring success of KhanaKhazana.

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: To be honest, I never really knew I would do KhanaKhazana in the first place. I would say that it was my destiny’s strategy that naturally paved the path of my progress. With KhanaKhazana I just intended to share my knowledge as a Chef and love for food with people. The motto was to keep things simple and be myself – which I later realized was what worked for KhanaKhazana. It helped me reach to the masses and stay in their hearts and brains forever!

HospiBuz: Every experience or phase leaves a lot of memories and lessons. Please tell us about the most wonderful memory when you started cooking.

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor:Food has always been an important part of our family. During my growing up years I used to watch my father cook along with my mother.  He showed me that men can cook! I have an elder brother and a younger sister and ours is a close knit family. Soon after, my elder brother Rajeev started helping them too. Then I followed suit, earliest memories are of me at just seven or eight years old, with the family in the kitchen!

HospiBuz: Your brand Wonderchef is enabling Indian women to empower themselves. God has blessed you with 2 daughters. Do you get inspiration from them when you work towards women empowerment? Please tell us what has made you think in the way to women empowerment and what and how exactly this goal is being achieved by you?

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: You don’t need to empower a woman. Just support her and she will empower herself and even you. My brand Wonderchef does just that – it is an initiative created for the sole purpose of enabling Indian women to empower themselves by starting their own business of selling world class kitchen gadgets. Ours is an all women team and let me tell you it works like a dream. My father once said to me, ‘ you don’t realize what you are doing in this country. You’re giving the power of cooking to women in India, and it’s a part of their emancipation.’

HospiBuz: ‘Men cannot cook” Is this proverb getting wrong?

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor:I wonder where this proverb came from. Since the earliest time professional cooks have all been men. They can definitely cook and very well.

HospiBuz: Hospitality where it aims to cover well accomplished and budding heroes of the hospitality sector. As all-in-one Indian celebrity chef, restaurateur and media personality at such a young age, please suggest what journalism in the hospitality sector is missing and what it should cover the most?

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: One needs to laud the unsung. Focus the limelight on lesser known chefs, trust me there are many out there who haven’t got their share of fame, media should strive towards showcasing their skills to the world. One also needs to focus on the many facets of Indian cuisine, there is still so much out there waiting to be discovered, especially in the regional cuisines. Also the health aspect of Indian cuisine with its various spices and their health benefits. Turmeric is getting its due on the global platform, likewise there are many more gems to talk about. The close connection between food and medicine is also an aspect that needs highlighting.

                                            Thank you so much for your prestigious time!!

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