Masterchef Vikas Khanna learnt cooking from grandma!
The chef who dons many hats -- food writer, filmmaker and humanitarian shares his culinary journey.
It was in his grandma's kitchen that Chef Vikas Khanna, began learning the intricacies of Indian cuisine. Today the host of popular TV show Masterchef India runs Junoon, a very successful restaurant in New York, which was awarded the prestigious Michelin star. He managed to start his own catering business at age 17 despite being born with misaligned legs. Chef Khanna has worked with many renowned chefs in the world, and went on to create a workshop Vision of Palate to educate visually impaired people on the taste, flavour and aroma.
Were you interested in food from a very early age?
Yes, absolutely yes. But it took years to develop the passion, and grow with new learnings.
Did you attend chef school?
I studied at Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, Manipal and Culinary Institute of America.
What are the benefits of attending culinary school? Or else can one also be a self-taught chef?
It's important. And not important at the same time. It's like knowing if Monet (the European painter) went to art school. Similarly food is an art. While cooking schools teach you about discipline in the kitchens and industry, you truly learn the most important lessons of cooking in your home or professional kitchens.
Tell us about your first job?
I started working as a kitchen helper at the Taj Intercontinental in 1990. It was with a salary of Rs 450 per month.
What do you love most about being a chef?
It's the only profession where people compare you to their moms, which can be good and bad. They might say "this is like my Mom's food" or they might say "you can't cook daal like my Mom".
How easy or tough was it to establish yourself in foreign shores?
Adaptability is an important part of our journey. For us, to grow in a foreign land is very hard. It requires a deep sense of roots, so that you live in the new world, but spiritually grow in your native land.
You are also a successful entrepreneur, today. But what about failure? Your advice...
Failure means that you did not have the right equations. So, just keep on working until you have the right one. Don't stop!
You overcame a huge disability. How did you do it?
I did not overcome it, my mother did. I would have been someone who would have never tried to fail. But mothers have an inherent power to make children run. It's a great source of eternal wealth that we should always stay tuned to.
You have also authored books and made films...
My books are always talking about the oneness that food brings in the world and on the tables. My films called Holy Kitchens look at food through the lens of faith, and allow me to build inter-faith bonds. I am very proud of them.
Any advice to rookies?
Believe in your heart. Remember the movie The Polar Express? The bells will keep ringing as long as we believe in miracles.
Image: Masterchef Vikas Khanna