'I came to Mumbai to pursue my food media dream'
Celebrity chef Saransh Goila, who is also an aspiring actor, talks about his passion for cooking and passes on some handy kitchen tips.
Saransh Goila was all of 12 when he made his first aloo paratha -- and got it right first time round.
That’s when Goila discovered his love for cooking and today he specialises in contemporary Indian food.
He caught the public eye when he won the Food Food Maha Challenge, a cookery competition hosted on television by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and actress Madhuri Dixit, and became the country’s youngest celebrity chef.
Chef Goila is currently a participant in Sanjeev Kapoor Ke Kitchen Khiladi on Sony TV. He also hosts a food travel show Roti, Rasta Aur India on Food Food channel.
The travelling for the show has made the 26-year-old the Limca record holder for the first Indian chef to travel 20,000 km by road in 100 days to discover India’s food heritage.
In this interview, the celebrity chef, who is also an aspiring actor, talks about his passion for cooking and passes on some handy kitchen tips.
Tell us a bit about your childhood.
I started cooking at the age of 12 after seeing my grandfather cook dum aloo on alternate Sundays.
Everybody in my family is a food enthusiast. If we hear about a new restaurant in our area in Delhi we make sure that we try it out.
When did you realise that you were interested in cooking?
The first dish I ever cooked was aloo parathas (16 to 17 of them) for a late mehndi night at a family wedding at the age of 12.
Nobody wanted to go into the kitchen so I said I will cook it and everyone starting laughing. I don’t know why I said that.
My uncle (who was the bridegroom) followed me into the kitchen. But he only knew how to make tea!
I made the dough and he boiled the potatoes. I used to observe my mom a lot while she was in the kitchen.
Luckily the parathas came out perfect, which was unbelievable.
After that night, I started experimenting every weekend. I became very popular in my family.
I learnt from Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s show too.
Image: Saransh Goila with Madhuri Dixit
'Once people started talking about it, I got more involved in cooking'
What did you try from Sanjeev Kapoor’s show?
I would rush home from school at 2 pm but I always missed the first recipe. However, I maintained a recipe book.
The first sweet dish I prepared was jalebi. My mom helped me with the consistency of the batter but the piping of the jalebi was done by me. It was perfectly round and even mom was surprised.
My Nani taught me to make a layered paratha in a simple way. She taught me to cut the roti into seven pieces, stack it and roll it. I would do it at the homes of all my relatives. I attracted a lot of attention for it.
Once people started talking about it, I got more involved in cooking.
I began cooking for two days a week for six years. Mom would experiment with different vegetables like broccoli, mushroom, baby corn and wine, pasta, and mayonnaise.
When I appeared for the interview for hotel management, the panel was surprised that I had knowledge about international cuisines and sauces.
What is your specialty?
Paneer butter masala and butter chicken. I am really known for that; people have asked me to open an outlet only based on these two dishes.
I also excel in modern Indian food, which includes kebabs made out of chandan (sandalwood), different versions of pani puri and many more.
In fact, the sandalwood kebab is one of my creations.
Who was your inspiration?
It has to be my grandfather, though my mom makes amazing food. I have inherited the art from her.
Image: Saransh Goila
'I have grown up watching Chef Sanjeev Kapoor'
What would you cook at home if you were just making a laid-back dinner or Sunday lunch?
Actually I don’t cook at all. If I have to then it has to be lasagne made from leftover sabzi.
Leftover palak paneer tastes better the next day; spread it on the lasagne sheet and bake it. That would be a perfect meal on a lazy day.
Do you have a mentor who inspired you in your career?
I have grown up watching Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. He is one of the reasons that I wanted to be on television as a chef.
I’ve been a theatre actor all my life so why not do both things (cooking and acting) together?
After completing my hotel management course, I worked at Leela’s in Bangalore for a year.
I quit my job, came to Mumbai and did an acting course from the Barry John School.
After one-and-a-half years of struggle I went back to Delhi and started my own catering company, which did well.
'I got positive feedback and I realised even if I don't win, I will still pursue it as a career'
How did TV happen?
I was 24 when I auditioned for Food Food Maha Challenge, the reality show on the Food Food channel.
I got positive feedback and I realised even if I don’t win, I will still pursue it as a career. But I went on to win the show.
The show after that, Roti Rasta Aur India, made me popular. I got lot of appreciation. It was a tough show to pull of.
What did it entail?
Travelling 100 days by road covering 100 cities from the north, east, west and southern parts of India, meeting various kinds of people and at the same time exploring local cuisines and recipes is not an easy job.
It was a very tough but beautiful experience. After every 100 km, it seemed I was in a different country.
I am writing a book on my journey and hopefully it will be out early next year.
Can you talk about your best moment during Roti Rasta Aur India?
At a small town in Kulu Manali, a family of 15 people was waiting for us. Despite telling them not to, they had prepared a huge meal for us.
They had this lovely kitchen made of clay. All the cooking was done on a fire made of burning wood, in earthen pots and peetal ka bartan.
It was one of the most fabulous meals I ate in those 100 days. It was organic, earthy and smelt good.
We ate some amazing dishes. One of them, Kodra ka roti is made of atta (flour) that is apparently available only in Himachal Pradesh. You can survive on half a roti throughout the day because it has so much heat and fibre.
We offered them money because they had cooked for the entire crew. But they refused to take it.
They gave us two boxes of apples instead. The whole experience is something I cannot forget.
'When I am shooting working hours can be a 14- to 16-hour day'
Any particular dish you have made that was appreciated by someone you look up to?
During Food, Food Maha Challenge, Madhuri Dixit loved the chocolate brownie so much that the next day I had to bake a separate batch for her family. Sanjeev Kapoor too loved it.
You are the youngest celebrity chef on television. What’s that feeling like?
It’s brilliant. Lot of people told me it’s not possible. It’s like working against the wind because chefs on television have at least 10 years of experience.
After successfully running the catering business for a year, I shut it down after I won the Maha Challenge and came to Mumbai to pursue my food media dream.
What are your working hours like?
There are no set hours. When I am shooting it can be a 14- to 16-hour day. When I'm not shooting it’s pretty relaxed.
I keep shuttling between Delhi and Mumbai for events. Recently I hosted the 10th Annual Chefs Awards in Delhi. They didn’t hire an emcee and instead chose to allow a chef to host the awards for the first time.
'It's the best time for chefs'
What advice would you give a youngster who wants to become a chef?
Today being a chef is a celebrated job. It’s not like ‘Tu bawarchi banega’ any more.
It’s the best time for chefs.
If you don’t want to just do cooking, you can use your skill to become a food critic, food stylist, and entrepreneur and there are other avenues too.
What's that one cooking tool that a guy should not be without?
If it's for a guy then it should be a cooker because they are generally lazy and sceptical about cooking.
Having a pressure cooker will at least ensure that they can throw in a lot of different ingredients in one place and have a meal ready at the end.
What is your ambition as a chef?
I wish to have a chain of restaurants across the globe, write a variety of books, teach, host an international travel food show, and make a film around food like Lunchbox.
Could you share some cooking tips?
Boiling milk with two to three tulsi (basil) leaves removes the smell of the milk and encourages kids to drink it.
To store green leaves, wrap them in a wet towel and store in a container.
To remove the garlic smell from fingers, just rub the fingertips on the backside (non cutting edge/spine) of the knife. The knife absorbs the smell from the fingers. .
I boil onions, make a paste and use it for any kind of gravy.
It’s a great practice to boil vegetables separately and toss them at the end. You can store the stock and use it to make gravy or soup.