Kunal Kapur wants 'a chef in every home'
From having had his dish thrown away by his boss and being embarrassed by a guest at a restaurant, Chef Kunal Kapur has come a long way.
In an interview with Rediff.com's Rajul Hegde Chef Kapur talks about his newly released cookbook -- A Chef in Every Home -- and how MasterChef India changed his life.
MasterChef India judge and Celebrity Chef Kunal Kapur recently added another feather to his hat by launching his first cookbook-- A Chef in Every Home.
A degree holder from Institute of Hotel Management Chandigarh started his career from the Taj Group of Hotels.
From 'chief stirrer' in his father's kitchen to Executive Sous Chef, The Leela, Gurgaon is counted among the top chefs in the country.
Chef Kapur is recipient of Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship in 2012 and is also a Star Chef with Lufthansa Airlines.
How long did you take to write this book?
When you cook yourself, you don't need to think much, but when you put it down for end-user you have to make things simpler and specific.
So the compilation and the process to make it simpler took almost one-and-half years.
What is the book about?
Every dish included in the book can be cooked with the regular ingredients available in a normal household kitchen.
While 80 per cent of the dishes are international, 20 per cent are Indian.
Most of the dishes in the books are which you have already heard or eaten.
Cook and keep enjoying all these recipes at home is the peg of the book.
When did you decide that you should write a book?
When I saw thousands of home cooks lined up with amazing home-cooked food during the auditions of MasterChef India (reality show) made me realise something is important: Good food can come from anyone.
After four seasons of the show, travelling across the country, hunting for talent, seeking out good food, I stumbled on the truth that there is a chef in every home.
Then just thought to myself all these years I have been a chef have the recipes and I have the access but how do I influence people's cooking on a larger perspective. I thought the best way is to document my type of recipes and make them specifically for the home cook, create a chef in every home. And that's how I could conceptualise the book.
What is your favourite recipe in the book?
How has life changed post MasterChef?
My television stint has opened up a new horizon and a parallel career path.
I am a media/TV chef, which gives me an opportunity to travel more and research a lot more because what you say on television is what goes out and (that is all the more reason why) the information needs to be correct.
Besides cooking, I have started researching a lot on food that is adding on to my knowledge and have shared it through this book as well.
What's your speciality?
I am trained in Indian cuisines, mainly north and south Indian cuisines is what I am storing at.
Over the years I have worked in European and Asian specifically Chinese cuisines. I pretty much do all kinds of cuisine.
Image: Chef Kunal Kapur
Photographs: Courtesy: Chefkunalkapur.com
'Buy spices in small quantities, grind them fresh'
What is the worst kitchen disaster that you have faced?
This incident happened during my first kitchen job at Taj Palace Delhi.
I was serving my first ever dish to a professional Chef Arvind Saraswat.
I made Dahi ka Shorba and presented it but the chef picked up the plate and threw it.
I was terrified, almost in tears because he shouted on top of his voice. As I was wondering what went wrong he told me to just get lost.
He asked where the spoon was.
For the longest time, I thought that the chef is little psycho, he should have asked me for a spoon and I would have given him a set of 12 spoons (smiles).
It was only after a year when I got my first kitchen as chef de partie, I realised that what he was trying to say is that chef's job doesn't end at making the right food right but rather at making sure that it is served right.
Are you in touch with him?
Yes. But he doesn't even remember that incident.
One of these days he is going to read my interview and say 'Kya bakwas ka rah hai maine kab phekha tha'.
He is a respectable chef and I adore him.
He is very proud of me and every time he sees me on television he gives me a call.
He is one of those people who love his work more than anything else.
What are the tips and tricks that everyone should know about cooking?
It's not about the right spices or the recipe but you need to have the right kind of attitude when you cook a food.
For instance if I am cooking a dish for a guest, not in the right mood I just follow the recipe but if my parents or family members are invited then I would take special care.
Like whether the spices are freshly ground or increase the quantity of garnish for the same recipe.
The result is obviously going to be very different because an extra mile and step is taken to make it the best. So attitude is an important, every time when you go into a kitchen.
You should always buy spices in small quantities, grind them fresh and use it for 3-4 days.
Fresh spices add a unique flavour to the food and that is the secret ingredient of a chef.
What is your favourite ingredient?
I love garlic.
If something is missing in the dish just add garlic it give a different taste.
Image: Chef Kapur with movie critic Mayank Shekhar at the launch of his cookbook in Mumbai.
Photographs: Courtesy UNE Consultants
'I really crave for simple dal, roti and sabzi'
According to you which are the most underrated and overrated ingredient/vegetable?
I think with potato we can do wonders but we don't see it beyond alu ki sabzi.
Whereas you don't say a meal is complete with without potato in Europe and America.
While truffle is overrated and it gives the authority to just increase the price for no reason.
What kind of food do you love cooking?
I love to cook sea food which I really learned in Goa.
Sea food is expensive and there are certain applications to it like the amount of cooking and marinade time is completely reversal from what we do in Indian food.
What kind of food do you like eating out?
I one of those blessed chefs who is always surround by good food.
Most of the time I am in hotel kitchen, eating exotic food so I really crave for simple dal, roti and sabzi.
Also I look forward for the same when we met up at friends places. But when we dine out obviously sample something new.
How you faced any embarrassing moment as a chef?
Once by mistake we served a non vegetarian biryani to vegetarian family.
Not that I am not very proud of but it was a blunder on the part of my entire team.
The server mixed up two tables' order which were similar one with veg and the other non veg.
They didn't eat as they came to know when the first spoon was served.
But they did call me out and embarrassed me before all the guests.
Image: Chef Kunal Kapur
Photographs: Courtesy: Chefkunalkapur.com
'Men should cook; that's the easiest way to a women's heart'
What is the one dish you really like to make?
I like to cook pastas -- usually Aglio Olio cooked with garlic and olive oil.
What is the most common kitchen mistakes people make?
Keep the ingredients and utensils ready before you start cooking.
Usually people start of with the cooking and then hunt for ingredients.
Also I think people blindly follow recipes even while recreating my recipes I would say tweak it if you think it can be better.
Believe in yourself, recipes should be inspiring, not hold you down, its there where you discover a chef in you.
If you were to invite three well-known people over for dinner, who would they be?
I am a big fan of Shakira, Salman Khan and I love Katrina Kaif. I would like to prepare some nice simple Indian food for them.
What do you have to say to those men who don't cook and think it is the woman's job? And a reason why men should cook?
I think men love to boast, need the bragging rights, men like sense of achievement but all these cost lots of money.
If you start cooking you are probably be one of those few men in house to cook and you can brag about.
If you are successful that's even better.
I think men should cook; that's the easiest way to a women's heart!
Photographs: Cover of A Chef in Every Home