Farida’s tellall interview of India’s well-known chef. Farida Khan interviewed Sanjeev Kapoor the biggest TV Chef In the world. Star of TV Show, Khana KhazanaIn the interview for OKHLATIMES, Farida talks about what brought Sanjeev to Indian food, his success in his career and the various aspects of Indian cuisine.
Q:Tell us about your career and what made you close to Indian food?
Being a professional and a Indian chef. I have been nurturing the dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world. My food channel, my books, my website all is created with the aim to glorify the richness of our food culture and to keep alive the traditions of the Indian kitchen. I started off as kitchen trainee with ITDC in 1984 and then moved out and up into various organizations. I had long stint as Executive Chef with Hotel Centaur in Mumbai. At that point of time my programme Khana Khazana was created and evolved and took off! This cookery show has had the distinction of being aired nonstop for more than 17 years. I used the platform of TV to put forth my passion for Indian recipes.
Q: Which style of method you would like to contribute to the women empowerment and Health issue?
All these are co-related. Food makes or mars health for all. A lady who cooks for the family is actually taking charge of their overall health and well being. And a healthy family is an important unit that makes up for a healthy society. This is women empowerment isn’t it? Another aspect is that women who have taken up food and catering as business ventures: be it home based or a large commercial one. Any business venture is empowerment. I have recently launched brand Wonder chef which is enabling Indian women to empower themselves by starting their own business.
Q: Share your journey in education at the Institute of hotel Management that influence you to choose to become cook?
Knowledge is important but the real power lies in knowledge applied! When I was growing up I saw my dad cook delicious food for the family. I started venturing into our kitchen when I was just ten years old and those formative years gave me the belief that men can cook! My formal education has been able to train my mind to accept that hotel management and catering is hard work but doable! Because we were taught about ingredients, cooking techniques, etc I have always been confident about playing around with flavours and creating something new.
Q: What was the main reason for the long term success of khana khazana?
I simply gave my audience what they wanted! Keeping my finger on the pulse of the market paid off. I have been advocating that home food is best and there should not be any fear in cooking for the family. My teaching style has been well loved and also the fact that I have been cooking food that is not daunting to the audience.
Q:Do you think Indian food has become such a universally popular cuisine?
Off course yes! There is such unity in the diversity of Indian food that it has won the hearts of all. Flavours, textures, presentation, variety, taste – all are vibrant and unmatched. I would say Ayurveda plays a role in this – an Indian meal has the power to satisfy all six senses of taste and the palate is the same the world over. So when a non Indian enjoys Indian food it is because all senses of taste have been satisfied. Well, he might just not be aware of this power in Indian food but it is there.
Q: What is the important of “street food” and “home cooking” within Indian cuisine?
I would describe street food as tasty and affordable food that, with passage of time, becomes synonymous with the geographical location of the city. This is further defined by what the people of that area like! But Indian cuisine is first and foremost home cooking. From there came the need for survival from the food business hence the evolution of street food. And then with passage of time, some foods became specifically ‘street foods’! But there are ardent cooks who would love to emulate the taste of this same street food at home too. So this cyclical creation goes on! Home cooking has a strong foothold. Since ancient times it is a natural thing for the ladies to stay home and cook for the menfolk who go out to earn their living. And eating at home is economical than eating out. Typically Indians do enjoy eating out but then come back after a few meals for their comforting home cooked dal-chawal-roti-sabzi meal.
Q: Why has Indian food generated such a rich variety of deserts and sweets? What is so unique about Indian sweets?
India is a vast country, the seventh largest in the world. It has 28 states and union territories. Each state has its language, its people and different cultures. Each culture has its traditions and festivals. As per our traditions, any auspicious moment or occasion needs something ‘meetha’ or sweet and because of these festivals the sweets and mithais evolved depending mainly on the availability of the ingredients available in the region. Gujarat has a lot of milk so from there comes shrikhand and ice cream. North has wheat and ghee and hence the halwas. South has rice and hence the payasams and kheers and hence forth.
Q: What have been the key drivers for the success of your journey?
My passion for making Indian cuisine the number one in the world is the main driving force. Because my goal is so clear, my path toward it is marked out…whatever hurdles come my way are then taken care of.
Q: How do you create a personal identity on dishes for a cuisine as wide and diverse as Indian food?
I would like to answer this a little differently. I would say any one who cooks can put a personal stamp of identification on the dish! If two people were to be given the same recipe with identical instructions the end result is bound to be different. Food and its taste changes from cook to cook. What I cook becomes different only because of my style of cooking! I have openly admitted that Alyona, my wife, makes better dosas and khandvi than I do! Or for that matter I think my mother’s Punjabi Kadhi is way better than mine!