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'All Good Things Start With Ghee'

Last updated on: February 15, 2024 14:39 IST
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'I always say you really cannot own a recipe.'
'In India, where, we have been cooking for thousands of years, how can you put a finger and say, 'This is mine'?'

Photograph and Videos: Rajesh Karkera/

Chef Ranveer Brar is as genial and bindaas in person, as he is towards his piping-hot bartans of delicious Sarson Ka Saag or Nawabi Dal Tadka on YouTube, where he has over seven million followers.

There is an elegantly raw approach to his easy way of chatting about food and cooking styles -- totally Lucknowi soph coloured by earthy, expansive Punjabi bonhomie.

He's chilled. He's fun. But he knows his onions. And seems to live for food. That foodie vibe is contagious, addictive and easily draws in the gourmet because you can listen to him poeticising food endlessly.

Chef Brar was last Friday at Escobar, a pub-restaurant, located in Bandra, north west Mumbai, to promote his new show, The Family Table, where he will uncover rare, khandani recipes with representatives of families from different parts of India and "give language to our ghar ka khana and through that window showcase the stars (cooking) our family food."

He also hosted a masterclass on the art of creating Dal Ki Dulhan. This traditional recipe, very akin to the Gujarati sweet-spicy Dal Dhokli, comes from the Uttar Pradesh heartland, rustled up while a daugher-in-law cosies up to her new family, and was chosen because the chef "loves food that is raw, rustic and food that is in your face."

But to draw viewers in, Brar says he gave it an Italian accent. To the simmering dal, he pops in arty-looking dumplings of aata, stuffed with sundried tomatoes spiced with Italian herbs and later adds a Parmesan cheese crisp. And voila, it's Dal Ki Dulhan A La Roma.

Attired in a brown suit the colour of garam masala -- commenting, wryly, that getting suited-booted is not the most convenient way to cook or what he prefers, but it hides all his mics -- Brar, often one hand in his pocket, using his Akshay-Kumar-cooking-dal-with-a-swagger acting chops, casually got down to stylishly providing an international touch to a peasant village one-pot meal.

The sideways flourish with which he flings aata on the chakla board with a flick of his wrist, or his skill of tossing dal in the air is all part of the signature my-tadka-is-the-best Brar magnetic charm -- you might have done 10,000 tadkas in your life, but Brar's tadka keeps your eyes glued, as he pours ghee into the pan declaring, with a twinkle in his eye, "all good things start with ghee."


Before that Brar handled, rapid-fire, a good 200 questions in interviews with media folks, his good humour never fading or slipping, his spiffy suit, worn with plaid slip-ons not losing its crease.

The most unusual dish he has eaten: Silkworms in Assam.

His favourite food: Fishhead cooked in dal, Bong-style.

One of his top cuisines: Bangla food.

The handiest kitchen gadget: A hand blender.

What he makes that his mother loves: Jalebis.

He loved cooking for: Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

A difficult dish to prepare: Octopus.

Guilty pleasure: Bitter chocolate.

Dish that keeps him comforted: Khichdi.

Favourite home Punju food: Kadhi. Rajma Chawal.

Must-have ingredients to cook with: Coriander, ginger, ghee.

Most univeral Indian food: Rice with lentils, be it sambar, dal or varan.

Special pastime: Photography.

On his mom: Humourously, "There is no exchange of footnotes between me and my mother. (It's) 'I am The Mother' (even if) 'tu hoga chef'.

In an interview to Vaihayasi Pande Daniel and Rajesh Karkera /, this "food disciple" kicks off the khane pe guftagu with his 5 Top Food Trends For 2024.

By his estimation, two of them would be discovery of better varieties of sugar-free cuisine, further exploration into vegetarian and vegan food, and three more trends. Hear about all five in the lively byte below:


In spite of the annual polls, from food apps and elsewhere, that have decided that biryani is one of India's most popular dishes, and items like Masala Dosa and Gulab Jamun top the ranks, Chef Brar has a different take:


The Gujral family, who own the capital's Moti Mahal restaurant chain, have moved the Delhi high court against the Daryaganj group, claiming that they patented the recipe for India's famously rich Butter Chicken and Makhni Dal.

If Chef Brar was the judge on the case deciding if the ownership for the recipes of Butter Chicken and Dal Makhni belonged to Daryaganj or Moti Mahal, what would he decide?

He feels, "I always say you really cannot own a recipe. In India, where, we have been cooking for thousands of years, how can you put a finger and say, 'This is mine'?"

He continues on in this vein. Consider what he says about food democracy:

Chef Brar, 46, who was born into a Sikh family in Lucknow, spent many formative years observing the city's famous kebab specialists, before training at the Indian Institute of Hotel Management-Lucknow.

He worked for the Taj hotel chain for several years, where he would have no doubt encountered a host of celebrities. But he has certain favourite stars he has enjoyed cooking with.


Watch the video below for his favourite Bollywood cooks:


Before he left home at 17 to study first kebabs with Munir Ustad and then hotel management, to then join a hotel job in Mumbai, eventually becoming one of the youngest five-star executive chefs in India, and later Indian shores to start restaurants in Boston, Brar lead a simple life, far away from television cooking, Masterchef judging and household fame.

He hung out at the neighbourhood gurdwara. And in the Brar rasoi. Cooking rajma for his mom, and Meetha Chawal for a langar, eating Surinder Kaur's divine sheera and observing his dear Biji (grandmother) at work, learning her kitchen values and respect for ingredients, were stand-out childhood memories.

He says he grew up in a village -- with "ghar ka doodh, ghar ka anaj, ghar ki dal, ghar ka ghee" watching vegetables and grains grow -- and paints a vivid picture of what his family kitchen was like and what simmered on the choolah usually:


When Brar -- who also loves Turkish dishes and French fare -- talks about the magic of Indian food and ghar ka khana, he can inspire oodles of patriotism that will just spring from our cuisine alone. He feels that so much of Indian khana is low-cal, while also being so very tasty and that is something to marvel at.

Given this wonderful diversity, what he does not marvel at is being greeted by tedious repetitious dishes that makes him want to groan, like the overdone Mutton Rogan Josh at every turn, which when cooked well is a super Kashmiri dish:


Like other chefs, Chef Brar rarely eats on a plane. He also tells us what he does when he visits a restaurant that is not his own:


Air-fryers have been around since 2006, when a model hit the French market and Philips later presented an upgrade at a Berlin consumer eletronics fair in 2010.

What does Brar like cooking in an air-fryer? He uses it a lot for grilling...


An afternoon spent talking food food food and more food to Chef Brar and viewing his culinary flair, even while yum snacks are passed out, is both peth puja and homage to Annapurna.

Brar calls himself a food sufi and his khana conversations, appropriately, have all the colour, adventure and humbleness of a true food wanderer.

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