Vikas Khanna Curated

Indian Michelin Star Chef

CURATED BY :      +44 others


  • Could you share your journey from being a chef to becoming a film maker?

  • Why did you choose Neena Gupta for your film?

  • What inspired you to make such a movie like Last Color?

  • What role does your Mother play in your life?

  • The Biggest Mistakes When Making Pasta

    Overcooking. You need to cook pasta al dente which means you need to cook it less.

  • with so many world-class restaurants here, what will distinguish Kinara from other Indian restaurants in the city?

    The food.There are so many unique combinations and textures. Consistency is so important too – diners have to be able to trust the chef and team, that’s the challenge.

  • what’s your favourite dish on the menu?

    One dish the chefs were very surprised by and excited by – which is a good thing as they’ve worked at the best restaurants – are the kebabs. Made just out of yoghurt with a kunafa-style crispy exterior, passion fruit gel, pickled beetroot and a golden turmeric sauce

  • Khanna’s protégé Ashish Kumar is heading the restaurant as chef de cuisine, but what can we expect from the famed name?

    Dishes are innovative but also familiar – that’s the balance for ethnic cuisine – we want to give people dishes they’ll know, but in our style

  • How excited are you about the latest season of the show?

    I don’t know a lot of shows, because I put so much of energy into restaurants, researches and PhDs and all the other work I do with films and documentaries. But this is something which is very close to my heart. It has its inception in my lunch meeting with Indra Nooyi in Chennai. She said something amazing, “This conversation of health is not a one-time event, it’s a process.” That stuck in my mind. I said okay, when we are talking about conversations, let’s talk about healthy conversation, people using alternatives for healthier lifestyle and of course oats are a part of it and Quaker is the one that actually brings the brand together. So, I am emotional about it.

  • What’s so special about the show?

    This is the most un-chef I have ever been in front of people. Because you are talking to celebrities and you are talking to people who are not into the kitchen, someone who has not been trained. So, it gives me a fresh point of view, to see how things can be made so easy. It’s about using the right techniques. This time, we have stars like Shraddha Kapoor; we have a cricketer for the first time, Shikhar Dhawan and South Indian celebrity Pearle Maaney.

  • So, you have done a shoot with Shraddha. How was the experience?

    Shraddha has such a positive energy and she absolutely lights up the set. And you know, it was funny. As I was cooking, she kept on interrupting me like one does at home, and I think it was beautiful.

  • You have experimented a lot with oats in the web series. What, according to you, is the best thing about oats?

    When oats came into my life, I realised I could have it soaked in water or milk any time of the day. Not just for me, but the regime of all the boys in my kitchen has changed. I wanted to talk about the mistakes I made, not treating my body properly, so people can learn from that.

  • What makes oats a healthy and versatile breakfast option? Can you share a recipe that can be easily prepared at home?

    Oats are a great source of protein and fibre, which eventually adds to overall energy. Oats are super grains that are often considered a powerhouse of nutrition and help build overall immunity. I’m going to share a very simple recipe that I use. I lightly dry roast the oats and then add a little milk to them and put lot of nuts and fruits. That’s my typical go-to meal and you can have a small container and pack it.

  • You recently attended the banquet reception for US President Donald Trump at Rashtrapati Bhavan, where many guests thought you had prepared the dishes. While you put the speculations at rest with your tweet, had you been in the kitchen that day – what would you have served the POTUS and other guests?

    I have hosted many dinners for dignitaries in my career and learnt a lot of lessons. Whenever it was about two leaders from nations, it was great to be a chef-pollinator. I had to intricately marry or fuse the flavour combinations of both nations. Today, chefs are like global ambassadors of their respective cultures. It reflects during these state dinners very well.

  • Which Indian ingredient (can be spice, fruit, vegetable) do you think is the most underrated and why? And overrated?

    I feel bael fruit, millets, Indian gooseberry and pippali pepper are the most underrated ingredients. For example, the Indian gooseberry, commonly known as amla, is an excellent source of vitamin c. It can act as an alternative to add a citrus note to dishes.

  • You are a Michelin star chef. Why do you think despite having some brilliant chefs, Indian restaurants are yet to find a firm footing on the Michelin star map?

    Our cuisine is still very new on this map. Our footprints are still very fresh. It needs some more time to establish itself.

  • What is the most bizarre food you have ever tried?

    I had an interesting experience while eating silkworms in Assam. Bamboo charcoal powder in a chutney form in Arunachal Pradesh has to be another such experience.

  • What food trends can one expect in 2020?

    People are becoming more conscious towards health and food choices. Due to which many people have started more research on what they consume. I think superfoods like oats not only increase the nutrition value in food but can also be tasty.

  • Regional cuisine has come up in a big way in India, with many restaurants whipping up dishes prepared from locally sourced ingredients. What do you have to say about the same?

    It’s the biggest honour for chefs to bring forward regional cuisines. This is the true representation of India’s diversity. Initially, we saw many restaurants that served only North Indian fare but today I see new dishes and regions being explored, which is extremely heartwarming.

  • Would it be correct to say that more Indians are open to experimenting with food/cuisines today? What according to you has brought about this change

    The change happens when the relationship between buyer and supplier is created. When people are ready to pay for new dishes or tasting menus, the chefs will be ready to supply too. Many years ago, eating out was a luxury, today it is a routine. Thus, the consumer is looking for new and more interesting options. This is the genesis of change.

  • A lot of times restaurants focus on presentation, which often leads to the portion sizes shrinking. Indian food is all about generous servings, which gets lost somewhere. How would you describe this food trend? Is it fair to customers?

    I think presentation is very crucial today, but it depends on the type of establishment and its vision. The world is changing very fast and information travels instantly, so the entire chef community around the world is struggling between balance, from casual to fine dining. These are divided by fine lines. Depending on the vision of the chef, this gets decided and today the market has become very large. Initially, we used to eat out as a group for social gatherings, today many diners eat for experience. When done with integrity, it will find its roots.

  • A lot of times restaurants focus on presentation, which often leads to the portion sizes shrinking. Indian food is all about generous servings, which gets lost somewhere. How would you describe this food trend? Is it fair to customers?

    I think presentation is very crucial today, but it depends on the type of establishment and its vision. The world is changing very fast and information travels instantly, so the entire chef community around the world is struggling between balance, from casual to fine dining. These are divided by fine lines. Depending on the vision of the chef, this gets decided and today the market has become very large. Initially, we used to eat out as a group for social gatherings, today many diners eat for experience. When done with integrity, it will find its roots.

  • A lot of times restaurants focus on presentation, which often leads to the portion sizes shrinking. Indian food is all about generous servings, which gets lost somewhere. How would you describe this food trend? Is it fair to customers?

    I think presentation is very crucial today, but it depends on the type of establishment and its vision. The world is changing very fast and information travels instantly, so the entire chef community around the world is struggling between balance, from casual to fine dining. These are divided by fine lines. Depending on the vision of the chef, this gets decided and today the market has become very large. Initially, we used to eat out as a group for social gatherings, today many diners eat for experience. When done with integrity, it will find its roots.

  • A lot of times restaurants focus on presentation, which often leads to the portion sizes shrinking. Indian food is all about generous servings, which gets lost somewhere. How would you describe this food trend? Is it fair to customers?

    I think presentation is very crucial today, but it depends on the type of establishment and its vision. The world is changing very fast and information travels instantly, so the entire chef community around the world is struggling between balance, from casual to fine dining. These are divided by fine lines. Depending on the vision of the chef, this gets decided and today the market has become very large. Initially, we used to eat out as a group for social gatherings, today many diners eat for experience. When done with integrity, it will find its roots.

  • A lot of times restaurants focus on presentation, which often leads to the portion sizes shrinking. Indian food is all about generous servings, which gets lost somewhere. How would you describe this food trend? Is it fair to customers?

    I think presentation is very crucial today, but it depends on the type of establishment and its vision. The world is changing very fast and information travels instantly, so the entire chef community around the world is struggling between balance, from casual to fine dining. These are divided by fine lines. Depending on the vision of the chef, this gets decided and today the market has become very large. Initially, we used to eat out as a group for social gatherings, today many diners eat for experience. When done with integrity, it will find its roots.

  • Who were your early influencers?

  • What advice would you give today's mothers in India?

  • What are your favorite vegetables?

  • What is favorite way of cooking Carrots?

  • What are your reactions when people call you the hottest chef in the USA?

  • What is your advice to Moms, who are not able to spend time with their kids?

  • Why you diverted yourself from Continental food to Indian food?

  • What is the first dish you remember a lot as in taste?

  • What was your first memory of a dish?

  • How did you reach where you are right now?

  • How did you spend your early childhood?

  • Till the age of 13, you had some problem with your feet, what was that problem?

  • How did you cope with humiliation in your childhood, as you had a problem with your feet?

  • When did you have a thought of your first business?

  • When did you see the first hotel in your life?

  • From where did you first learn cooking?

  • How was your college experience?

  • What did you learn in your college?

  • What was your biggest connection with the hotel industry?

  • What happened to you during the riots in India?

  • When and Why did you go abroad?

  • How was your experience in America?

  • What was the turning point in your life?

  • What was the biggest day of your life?

  • How is it that you've spent quality time with most of the great leaders?

  • How was your experience writing your book?

  • What is that you want to accomplish by the book you've written?

  • Had your childhood disability made you experience a lot that helped you in this journey?

  • How did you spend your childhood when you had your disability?

  • What is the initiative you have undertaken against COVID-19

  • How do you coordinate with your team back home in India to make this initiative happen?

  • How have your family being coping with this crisis?

  • What is so special about the COVID-19 lockdown dishes?

  • What inspired you to pursue cooking professionally?

    My grandmother. We call her Biji. She taught me how to cook. I understood the power of food when I was just a child, just observing my family and friends at mealtimes. Food was the center point, when everyone sat together at the table and shared life and every celebration of togetherness. It was and is the most inspiring part of my profession, even today!

  • What advice would you give to young chefs just getting started?

    I have a mantra that I tell everyone, who is beginning their journey in this industry. "Feed as much as you are able to, but stay hungry as much as you can to learn." It’s important, especially in today’s Internet-connected world, to reinvent as much as you can.

  • Do you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks?

    I still feel that if you speak well or are a good orator, it is not qualification enough to be a lawyer. The significance of education cannot be undermined. While culinary schools do provide a major link between the industry and the training, cooking is also an art, so it also has a lot to do with inborn talents.

  • Do you hire chefs with or without a culinary background?

    I do hire chefs based on both criteria. But above all is the passion that they bring to their cooking.

  • How are you involved in your local culinary community?

    Indian cuisine has an abundance of interest in the world of global cuisines. I think that sharing your life, your culture, and cuisine is very personal to every chef in New York. I have regularly lectured at The New School, FCI, Natural Gourmet, Macys Cellar and many more institutions. It all leads to the awareness of my native country, India.

  • What ingredient do you feel is underappreciated?

    I feel that ginger is underappreciated. In Indian cuisine it is as important as garlic. Its taste is sweet, pungent, and has a great undertone. It’s also known for its health benefits.

  • What is your philosophy on food and dining?

    For me, the essence of food and dining is to keep it pure. It should feel like you are eating the meal in your own dining room, cooked by a friend as a guest chef.

  • What goes into creating a dish?

    Vision, art, understanding of temperature and technique, and most importantly the ingredients that inspire the dish.

  • Is there a culinary technique that you use in a different or unusual way?

    I love using green papaya paste as a tenderizer. It adds a nice flavor to meats and is a great way to make grilling pastes.

  • What trends in cooking do you see emerging?

    Simple ingredients and simple plates. I think ultimately we all love comfort foods.

  • What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?

    Junoon is a great restaurant that brings to the forefront different techniques and elements of Indian cooking. Creating awareness of those new concepts has been most rewarding—and challenging.

  • What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to do in your job?

    When my beloved publisher Hiroko Kiiffner was visiting me for the first time at Junoon, I wanted to serve her the whole menu and everything I cook. Choosing just a few dishes was the toughest job.

  • If you had one thing you could do over again, what would it be?

    I would have worked in London for some time before moving to New York. I think Indian food has a broader outlook to it in London.

  • What are some of your favorite food-industry charities? Why?

    Mid-Day Meal and Food for All programs—this is a part of ISKCON Food Relief Programs worldwide. They have been a subject of my film series, "Holy Kitchens", and I love their message of food and education. Also New York Rescue Mission. I simply love them. I spent my first Christmas here and [I am] very proud of them. They are the symbol of hope to me.

  • Do you have a blog or do you contribute to any blogs?

    I have a blog vikaskhannagroup.blogspot.com I also write for Dr. Deepak Chopras Intent and Huffington Post.

  • Which person in history would you most like to cook for, and why?

    Mahatma Gandhi. He will always be my hero. Also, I love his food pyramid and think it’s very fascinating to see his simple food and the strength of his body and mind.

  • Which chef would you most like to cook for, and why?

    I love President Obama’s Pastry Chef Bill Yosses. He is truly my first introduction to Western desserts, and I love his approach to ingredients. As gratitude, I would love to cook for him and share my cuisine.

  • What’s your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?

    On July 29th, I catered for HASC Conference at the White House. It was a moment of pride for me to stand at the podium and thank everyone for inviting me to represent India at this amazing conference on interfaith relations.

  • What does success mean for you?

    I take it as an opportunity to express my love for my culture, cuisine, and people.

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

    I would have finished my documentary film series “Holy Kitchens,” which connects food and faith, and published my favorite project on Himalayan cuisine with an introduction by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Knock on wood!

  • If you weren’t a chef, what do you think you’d be doing?

    I answer promptly to that: a farmer. It’s the profession that keeps us closest to Mother Earth and love for our life through food.

  • What would be your last meal?

    At the Golden Temple in Amritsar, exactly the place where I started from.

  • How did your time on MasterChef happen?

    'I truly believe that when I moved to America, I just changed my postcode. I still work with Punjabis, still make the food that I know, and I still speak Pinglish! The first time I met Gordon Ramsay, I said, “Chef, you really expired me. I have all your books.” Astonished, he asked what he had done to me! He started laughing and said “I’ve got to get you on TV!” When you do something authentic, people become very forgiving.’

  • What do you think makes your style of contemporary Indian cooking appealing to diverse palates?

    ‘Typically, the first time Americans taste Indian food isn’t in India – either it’s at home, or they travel to England, fall in love with the curry shops there, and want to try more upon their return. I do a lot of tasting menus, which is a newer concept within Indian restaurants. I don’t change the essence of the food; I use Western ingredients but treat them with Indian flavours. One of my desserts is a good example of this: I made a South Indian-inspired chocolate roll smoked in sandalwood and served with coconut tapioca pudding. Instead of pistachios on the pudding, I made pistachio-flavoured poppadums and served fresh haldi (turmeric) ice cream on the side. Food is one of the greatest Indian imports, and the soft power of the country. And here in the US, when people know a chef is passionate about his cooking, it gets a lot of attention. You might even get invited to the White House!’

  • You got your start cooking with your grandmother. How has that influence translated into your food?

    Chef Vikas Khanna: ‘I wanted to be invisible as a child, and used to go to the kitchen with my grandmother to hide. When you’re raised in a lower-middle class family, you cook the same food every day – you just use different seasonal vegetables, since what is seasonal is available in abundance and hence the cheapest. Our food at home was soulful, healing and comforting. Today, I still try to bring this simplicity and soul into my dishes. I didn’t have an American dream. I thought I could just come and work in a small restaurant, and that people back home wouldn’t notice I was missing! At the time, Indian culture was coming to the fore, and the Indian food scene was expanding in the United States. In big cities like New York, diners wanted to know more about Indian food, culture and heritage. Sometimes when you don’t ask too much of life, the universe starts planning for you.’

  • Can you tell us more about the Culinary museum project in Manipal?

    ‘When I was 17, my dad bought me a tandoor. It holds so many memories for me, and my museum project is ultimately a way of thanking my father for this gesture. The museum will showcase India’s amazingly diverse cooking utensils, and the heritage they represent. In India, the big cities are too cosmopolitan but in the remote areas, many traditional utensils are still in use. In New York, I had amassed an incredible collection of 10,000 utensils, and I had a mourning ceremony before shipping them off. But you have to be the custodian of the heritage. Also, America gave me a second life – the utensils also deserve a second life instead of being melted or discarded.’

  • Can you offer one tip to readers travelling to India for the first time?

    ‘A traveller should never refuse an invitation to a local’s home. If you’re approachable, people will invite you – and you’ll discover the kind of food you’ll never find in restaurants. Indians are very hospitable and you’ll understand India when you eat with the people.’

  • You have done a shoot with Shraddha. How was the experience?

    Shraddha has such a positive energy and she absolutely lights up the set. And you know, it was funny. As I was cooking, she kept on interrupting me like one does at home, and I think it was beautiful.

  • You have experimented a lot with oats in the web series. What, according to you, is the best thing about oats?

    When oats came into my life, I realised I could have it soaked in water or milk any time of the day. Not just for me, but the regime of all the boys in my kitchen has changed. I wanted to talk about the mistakes I made, not treating my body properly, so people can learn from that.

  • What makes oats a healthy and versatile breakfast option?

    Oats are a great source of protein and fibre, which eventually adds to overall energy. Oats are super grains that are often considered a powerhouse of nutrition and help build overall immunity.

  • Can you share a recipe that can be easily prepared at home?

    I’m going to share a very simple recipe that I use. I lightly dry roast the oats and then add a little milk to them and put lot of nuts and fruits. That’s my typical go-to meal and you can have a small container and pack it.

  • Which Indian ingredient (can be spice, fruit, vegetable) do you think is the most underrated and why? And overrated?

    I feel bael fruit, millets, Indian gooseberry and pippali pepper are the most underrated ingredients. For example, the Indian gooseberry, commonly known as amla, is an excellent source of vitamin c. It can act as an alternative to add a citrus note to dishes.

  • Why do you think despite having some brilliant chefs, Indian restaurants are yet to find a firm footing on the Michelin star map?

    Our cuisine is still very new on this map. Our footprints are still very fresh. It needs some more time to establish itself.

  • What is the most bizarre food you have ever tried?

    I had an interesting experience while eating silkworms in Assam. Bamboo charcoal powder in a chutney form in Arunachal Pradesh has to be another such experience.

  • What food trends can one expect in 2020?

    People are becoming more conscious towards health and food choices. Due to which many people have started more research on what they consume. I think superfoods like oats not only increase the nutrition value in food but can also be tasty.

  • Regional cuisine has come up in a big way in India, with many restaurants whipping up dishes prepared from locally sourced ingredients. What do you have to say about the same?

    It’s the biggest honour for chefs to bring forward regional cuisines. This is the true representation of India’s diversity. Initially, we saw many restaurants that served only North Indian fare but today I see new dishes and regions being explored, which is extremely heartwarming.

  • Would it be correct to say that more Indians are open to experimenting with food/cuisines today?

    The change happens when the relationship between buyer and supplier is created. When people are ready to pay for new dishes or tasting menus, the chefs will be ready to supply too. Many years ago, eating out was a luxury, today it is a routine. Thus, the consumer is looking for new and more interesting options. This is the genesis of change.

  • A lot of times restaurants focus on presentation, which often leads to the portion sizes shrinking. Indian food is all about generous servings, which gets lost somewhere. How would you describe this food trend?

    I think presentation is very crucial today, but it depends on the type of establishment and its vision. The world is changing very fast and information travels instantly, so the entire chef community around the world is struggling between balance, from casual to fine dining. These are divided by fine lines. Depending on the vision of the chef, this gets decided and today the market has become very large. Initially, we used to eat out as a group for social gatherings, today many diners eat for experience. When done with integrity, it will find its roots.

  • How did your physical disability (Vikas was born with a club foot) shape your childhood and lead you to cooking?

    Life is so different when you are born a disabled child. You are always considered to be inferior. People would say, 'yeh to bhoot hai' (he is a monster). I would wear such huge shoes that no one wanted to be friends with me as a kid. I couldn't run or play any sports like all the other kids. I had no friends of my own -- all my friends were actually my siblings' friends. Most of the time I was my own and sat in the kitchen. It was my mom who opened me up, while my grandmother taught me how to cook food. My grandmother would give me odd jobs: peeling peas, grinding masalas, and cleaning. When she cooked, I became her small helper.

  • How did your family and others react to your interest in food and the decision to become a chef?

    It was very challenging. There was this social stigma attached to cooking. People would say, ghar main beta khana bana raha hai (their son is sitting at home and cooking). But my grandmother always championed me, and told me not to listen to anyone. She said that people don't understand anyone's dreams that are you are the only person who is going to live with yourself. That was much much more important to me than the cooking lessons. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming a chef was still a joke. Even now, I hear people laughing at me: tu bawarchi banega? (So you'll become a cook?) That time in Amritsar, there were only dhabas and small caterers. My parents would say that they were scared about the future. It was an unsafe game

  • What led you to start your first catering business while you were still in your teens?

    My father had a video cassette library. We were not at all rich. I still remember, we would just have chicken once a month, on the first Sunday. There was a small piece of land behind our house, where I started cooking, though I only knew 10 dishes then. The kitchen was very small, and everybody said you need capital to start a catering business. So then we took up a contract for sweaters and I learnt how to knit. My grandmother and I made 580 sweaters. Then too people said, 'ladka ghar main sweater bana raha hai' (This boy is knitting sweaters at home). It used to be a funny thing to everyone. But those sweaters were important and earned us 10000 rupees, from which we bought a tandoor and utensils. I started catering for small events and parties because I didn't have the provisions to do big parties. Once at a new year party, we were catering to 100 people for the first time. Me and my mother washed the plates till 5 in the morning because we were afraid they would get spoilt. One day, an uncle from Ireland told me that cooking chhola-bhaturas and paneer pakoras was not a career and how I could gain respect as a chef. I didn't know that you needed to study as well, but he encouraged me to apply to Manipal.

  • Was language ever a professional hindrance for you?

    I failed in my college interview. I got zero marks in the group discussion and interview. Yet, I reached Manipal even though you can't go if you are not selected. I told the principal that mera business hai (I have a business), that my chacha had told me that I make very good food and should take admission in this college. He thought it was very funny, but also said that when you do things just for the love for it, there are more chances of you doing something big. If you speak to my professors now, they'll probably tell you that he wasn't the brightest guy, but he was very dedicated. I didn't even know that what we called double roti in Amritsar was actually known as bread. After college, when I started working in the early 1990s, I initially didn't like it because I couldn't speak English. Everyone spoke in a different accent. Even today, jab bhi galat English main koi tweet likha hota hai (whenever there is a tweet in incorrect English), it is probably by me rather than my team.

  • What made you go to the US?

    After finishing college, in 1994, I went back to Amritsar. I had dreamt of working in a five star hotel, but in Amritsar, no one ate new dishes. If you emphasised too much on quality, you couldn't afford to pay your employees. It was a moment of truth. I was happy but my brother got me a book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that I loved. My brother also encouraged me to experiment with my life and to try my luck in the US. So in 2000, I went to America.

  • When did you start experimenting with Indian food and thinking about how to transform classical recipes?

    Chanterelle, one of the best restaurants in New York City, was near Salaam Bombay, an Indian restaurant where I used to work. Towards the end of 2001, its chef David Waltuck came to my restaurant for lunch on a Sunday. I told him that his restaurant looked very nice but was too expensive. At his invitation, one day I went to the restaurant for a meal. It was the first time I had anything but indian food. Main pagal ho gaya. Sab kuch alag tha (I went crazy. Everything was so different)! "In New York, I learnt how to adapt new ingredients in Indian cuisine though I never used the word fusion. That's when I realised that there is much more to Indian food than making the same food everyday." I asked him how do you cook like this? He invited me to help him out for catering. I had never seen food being cooked that way. After I started working with him, he encouraged me to serve Indian food. He'd say, 'People will scare you. It is only white people who control the industry, it's not for you. You are inferior, but don't listen to anyone.' Isse mera dar nikal gaya (That took away my fear). I freelanced with a lot of big chefs and learnt from them. I learnt how to adapt new ingredients in Indian cuisine though I never used the word fusion. That's when I realised that there is much more to Indian food than making the same food everyday. I became a different person.

  • Do you have any plans of opening a restaurant in India?

    Why should we all be clones? I have no plans of opening a restaurant in India, but I am working on my Kitchen Museum in Manipal. It is something I am very passionate about, through which I want to show how our utensils and cooking styles have changed over time. "I can open a chain of restaurants but businesses come and go. The kitchen museum is more immortal." I don't want to get emotional, but it is crazy. People find it funny that I get so excited about discovering a new bartan (utensil)in Kutch. It is ironic that we are talking about chhanis (sieves) in Cannes, but we have 311 different kinds of chhanis. I can open a chain of restaurants but businesses come and go. This is more immortal.

  • How did you get the idea of writing ‘Young Chefs’?

    I wanted to write something for my nieces Ojasvi and Saumya. Most of my books are on heavy cooking subjects and sometimes hard for them to understand. I wanted to create something for that age group, who are the future inspiration of our nation. The success of Junior MasterChef has truly helped us.

  • What was the toughest dish made in Junior Masterchef?

    The last challenge to create a dish, which looks familiar, but tastes totally different was very tough. It’s a difficult task for kids as they are connected to everything familiar. But, what imagination kids have! We were pleasantly surprised.

  • Which is your favorite cuisine and why?

    I love everything, but most importantly I love Bhutanese and Tibetan cuisines.

  • What should I do, if the kitchen scares me?

    The kitchen should not scare anyone. It’s the purest part of a home. One thing I recommend to everyone, is to make a chai. Follow a perfect recipe of making chai and enjoy the satisfaction of creating it with your own hands. Then, jump to eggs. It would help you overcome your fears.

  • There are so many different ingredients. What is the best way for young chefs to remember them?

    It’s not something that happens in one day. It’s like every other art or science, it takes time. Keep working towards it.

  • How can kids improve their cooking skills?

    I think support from home is crucial. If parents or family members appreciate the food cooked by kids, half the battle is won. Always remember that encouragement is the greatest tool.

  • How important is presentation for eating? You work with the visually challenged- how do they experience food?

    It’s crucial. My workshops with visually challenged are based on recognising flavours and textures of food and appreciating them. The senses of aromas and touch are crucial in these classes.

  • Parents always want us to eat healthy. How can we cook food that is healthy yet tasty?

    There are so many substitutions we can make for healthier choices. For example, I use yogurt instead of heavy creams, chocolates can be combined with fresh seasonal fruits and now we have the choice of low fat for everything.

  • Which is your favorite dish you cooked as a child?

    I loved rolling and cooking rotis. I found the process of kneading extremely gratifying.

  • Any cooking tips you would want to give our readers?

    Cooking is a pure expression of you. Enjoy it and celebrate it with your family and loved ones.

  • Your book Indian Harvest focuses on vegetarian dishes.What were your key finds while researching the books?

    ''Vegetarianism is on the rise. It could be because of the power of the internet or just more awareness and people choosing to eat what they believe in. I wanted to take a vegetarian angle for this book, but with a poetic side. I wanted to shine the spotlight on the simplicity of vegetarian cuisine with its complexity of flavours. I have been very curious about the northeast of India for decades. Here, I have discovered so many varieties of vegetables. Bamboo roots are truly my favorite.”

  • How can we apply ayurvedic principles in our diet?

    “Include more grains and spices in your meals. Try to incorporate wholegrain flours over refined options and choosejaggeryover white sugar. The essential spices that everyone should have in their kitchen are turmeric, dried ginger powder, asafoetida and black salt.”

  • What dishes can you recommend from the Himalayan Culture?

    “I love ema datshi from Bhutan—it’s chili peppers cooked in a cheese sauce. And Amdobalep—a crusty bread from Tibet—is always wonderful.”

  • Can you tell us about your experience of filming 'Holy Kitchens'?

    “Holy Kitchens is a documentary series that explores the power of faith and food. The first of the series was True Business and it explored Sikhism and the legendary institution of langars—community kitchens serving free meals to those who visit the gurdwara, or Sikh temple.

  • Can you tell us about the role of food in Indian festivals?

    “Food is a great equaliser, a great form of celebration. Utsav follows the amazing rituals that involve food, from the northeast of India to its coastal festivities. I have tried to capture a lot of those traditions in the book. Food is so essential for civilisations and their connectivity.”

  • If you could teach the Western world one thing about Indian cooking, what would it be?

    Indian cuisine is extremely complicated and simple at the same time. It is not all about curries. There is so much more to it.

  • Would you tell us something about your background?

    I was born and raised in Amritsar, a city in the north of India. I grew up cooking, helping grandmum in the kitchen. I got so obsessed that at the age of 16 I started doing catering. I started a small catering company with my grandmum in the back of her house. Then I graduated with a degree in hotel management, and then I continued to work in India in major hotels in the country. In 2000, moved to America to work; I absolutely loved New York City. I had a catering company, and my small cooking school, and I worked in a small restaurant near Wall Street. When everything closed, then I worked in a restaurant called Purnima, and then the journey continues. Since then, I’ve written 25 books.

  • Who taught you how to cook?

    My grandmum, because I was her kitchen helper. We had a huge temple [in Amritsar]; it’s called the Golden Temple, and they have community kitchens. She would take me there to volunteer as a child. So my understanding of the power of food came from there, where everybody helped as a community to feed the hungry. I spent a lot of my childhood in that kitchen. She also always understood one thing: simplicity. The greatest cuisine or the greatest dishes you ever taste in your life are never the complicated dishes.

  • How do home cooks work with spices differently in India, compared to the United States?

    In India, everybody has their own spice mixture. There is a blend that everybody makes at home which is very signature of the family or the culture or the region.

  • So we should dispel the idea that there’s a set of core Indian spices that everybody uses at home?

    My mother doesn’t know what a curry leaf is, and has never used mustard seeds in her cooking, ever. My mother doesn’t know mustard seeds could be used in cooking! But if you go to a South Indian home, you’ll have cooking with curry leaves and mustard seeds. In the north, we have never used coconut in our cooking. In the south, you hardly make a dish without coconut.

  • What do you think are some of the biggest mistakes people make when buying, cooking with, or storing spices?

    The biggest mistake people make is that they start to put powders in the beginning of the cooking process. That’s wrong. Whole spices are actually fried in oil, never the powders. Powders turn very bitter because they burn too fast. I work with lots of powders, but you never put the powders in hot oil. Powdered spices are very delicate. [You add them] in the middle or end of cooking.

  • Can you tell us more about the sauces and spice blends you’ve created for us?

    They’re a good start for people who are trying to understand Indian flavors, and are trying Indian food at home. The sauces have been done in a very, very delicate way, and I think our spice packaging is awesome.

  • What’s South Asian food stereotype would you like to put an end to?

    People are going to kill me when I say this: Chicken tikka masala is a British dish. We don’t have chicken tikka masala in India. And we [Indians] have no concept of mango lassi. Lassi is a yogurt smoothie; it’s either sweet or it’s salty or it’s plain. Only when I came to America did I hear of mango lassi. It is a totally American thing.

  • What’s South Asian food stereotype would you like to put an end to?

    People are going to kill me when I say this: Chicken tikka masala is a British dish. We don’t have chicken tikka masala in India. And we [Indians] have no concept of mango lassi. Lassi is a yogurt smoothie; it’s either sweet or it’s salty or it’s plain. Only when I came to America did I hear of mango lassi. It is a totally American thing.

  • Tell us something about your biggest achievement and biggest regrets so far?

    Biggest achievement? It was actually the cover of Man’s World. I remember that shoot in Delhi very dearly. I flew in just for the shoot. My biggest achievement, I feel, till now hasn’t come. My biggest regret would always be not being with my dad when he passed away, it’s going to always haunt me.

  • What is the one skill every man should possess?

    I think every man should be able to cook.

  • Now, this is a tricky one. Which is the one thing all men should know about women?

    Main galat insaan hon question poochne ke liye. Mujhe kabhi kabhi lagta hai mera toh koi relation nahi last karta 6 mahine se zyaada, teen mahine kabhi kabhi. I just think it’s also because of my travels. I’m working on such crazy projects so it’s a tough thing to …

  • Alright. Which is your dominant flaw?

    My dominant flaw is that I’m temperamental. I just feel that when I would watch my chefs make a mistake or when servers make a mistake, I am not the person who stays quiet and says “chalta hai chalne do”. I would become extremely crazy and throw tantrums. Because I feel like you don’t understand that I have been on the other side of the river when food was an extreme privilege to have at home and I do feel like when people come to your restaurant, or your workplaces or your events, they spend a lot of money for that and to compromise on that – I just think – that it’s not worth giving that value and respect to your career and to yourself.

  • What is the one thing that you’ve always desired?

    One thing I desire is just a little bit more sleep somehow. I just feel like my sleep cycles are so crazy that I wish I can sleep a little more.

  • Coming to time zones, which is your favourite place on the earth?

    My favourite place on earth will be Bhutan. Something about it just calms my energy and also I was going through a strange metamorphosis in my life where I had just closed a restaurant, I had gone broke with my cooking school, I had a catering company which was under too much trouble. I decided to leave America and I went to the Himalayas and Bhutan – I feel like it was the place for my rebirth.

  • A social media abbreviation which you don’t know the full form of?

    Bohot hai. My nieces keep putting that on the family group and I have no idea, I need to Google it all the time. Lying on the floor and laughing … but that was a very interesting one.

  • What irritates you the most about people?

    What irritates me about the people is sometimes their non-commitment.

  • And what’s your message to the millennials who are health conscious?

    Learn how to cook. If you really want to eat healthily, you can’t depend on people.

  • Which word or phrase do you overuse the most?

    Ullu da phatta. Somehow I don’t know what it means also. I think it means ‘Son of an owl’, but my mother used to call me ullu da phatta so I don’t even know what it actually means. Most of the people who are from Europe or America, they also use ullu da phatta in the office.

  • So, if you could be a historical figure for a day, who would you be?

    Martin Luther King mujhe koi bana de ek din ke liye.

  • Which is an overrated virtue according to you?

    Talent. Oh my god, in the last 20 years in the US I have seen the most talented people still looking for jobs because talent means nothing without an attitude. Talent se kya hota hai. Thoda hard work karo talent aa jaata hai. If you have dedication, talent means nothing.

  • What are you doing these days?

    We are doing an amazing project in Banaskantha in Gujarat. We are with the Pepsi Co. foundation and with Quaker Oats. We have this amazing project which is going on and which is about nutrients for girls and bohot mere heart ke close hai yeh project. It took us a lot of months to finalize the details of it and I want to use this project as a template and I want to use this project as to how I can apply this to many more places, cities, schools for the health of girls (sic).

  • A message from you to whoever is reading this story?

    I feel that somehow, we get define by our colour, somehow, we get defined by what people tell us. I’m not doing this as an Oprah moment but I feel that some of the projects in which I had to shut off the world and focus on what my heart said – they are the most powerful projects I have done and I have treasured them the most. So, I think we need to find something that really gravitates towards us and we can’t breathe without doing it and I think we should continue and find new ways to do it.

  • How did your physical disability (Vikas was born with a club foot) shape your childhood and lead you to cooking?

    Life is so different when you are born a disabled child. You are always considered to be inferior. People would say, 'yeh to bhoot hai' (he is a monster). I would wear such huge shoes that no one wanted to be friends with me as a kid. I couldn't run or play any sports like all the other kids. I had no friends of my own -- all my friends were actually my siblings' friends. Most of the time I was my own and sat in the kitchen. It was my mom who opened me up, while my grandmother taught me how to cook food. My grandmother would give me odd jobs: peeling peas, grinding masalas, and cleaning. When she cooked, I became her small helper.

  • How did your family and others react to your interest in food and the decision to become a chef? Was there any pressure to pursue a more conventional career?

    It was very challenging. There was this social stigma attached to cooking. People would say, ghar main beta khana bana raha hai (their son is sitting at home and cooking). But my grandmother always championed me, and told me not to listen to anyone. She said that people don't understand anyone's dreams that are you are the only person who is going to live with yourself. That was much much more important to me than the cooking lessons. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming a chef was still a joke. Even now, I hear people laughing at me: tu bawarchi banega? (So you'll become a cook?) That time in Amritsar, there were only dhabas and small caterers. My parents would say that they were scared about the future. It was an unsafe game. "There was this social stigma attached to cooking. People would say, 'ghar main beta khana bana raha hai'."

  • What led you to start your first catering business while you were still in your teens?

    My father had a video cassette library. We were not at all rich. I still remember, we would just have chicken once a month, on the first Sunday. There was a small piece of land behind our house, where I started cooking, though I only knew 10 dishes then. The kitchen was very small, and everybody said you need capital to start a catering business. So then we took up a contract for sweaters and I learnt how to knit. My grandmother and I made 580 sweaters. Then too people said, 'ladka ghar main sweater bana raha hai' (This boy is knitting sweaters at home). It used to be a funny thing to everyone. But those sweaters were important and earned us 10000 rupees, from which we bought a tandoor and utensils. I started catering for small events and parties because I didn't have the provisions to do big parties. Once at a new year party, we were catering to 100 people for the first time. Me and my mother washed the plates till 5 in the morning because we were afraid they would get spoilt. One day, an uncle from Ireland told me that cooking chhola-bhaturas and paneer pakoras was not a career and how I could gain respect as a chef. I didn't know that you needed to study as well, but he encouraged me to apply to Manipal.

  • I believe you also convinced the college principal at Manipal University to give you admission even though you had not cleared the interview because you weren't fluent in English. Was language ever a professional hindrance for you?

    I failed in my college interview. I got zero marks in the group discussion and interview. Yet, I reached Manipal even though you can't go if you are not selected. I told the principal that mera business hai (I have a business), that my chacha had told me that I make very good food and should take admission in this college. He thought it was very funny, but also said that when you do things just for the love for it, there are more chances of you doing something big. If you speak to my professors now, they'll probably tell you that he wasn't the brightest guy, but he was very dedicated. I didn't even know that what we called double roti in Amritsar was actually known as bread. After college, when I started working in the early 1990s, I initially didn't like it because I couldn't speak English. Everyone spoke in a different accent. Even today, jab bhi galat English main koi tweet likha hota hai (whenever there is a tweet in incorrect English), it is probably by me rather than my team.

  • What made you go to the US?

    After finishing college, in 1994, I went back to Amritsar. I had dreamt of working in a five star hotel, but in Amritsar, no one ate new dishes. If you emphasised too much on quality, you couldn't afford to pay your employees. It was a moment of truth. I was happy but my brother got me a book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that I loved. My brother also encouraged me to experiment with my life and to try my luck in the US. So in 2000, I went to America.

  • When did you start experimenting with Indian food and thinking about how to transform classical recipes? Was it after you came to New York City?

    Chanterelle, one of the best restaurants in New York City, was near Salaam Bombay, an Indian restaurant where I used to work. Towards the end of 2001, its chef David Waltuck came to my restaurant for lunch on a Sunday. I told him that his restaurant looked very nice but was too expensive. At his invitation, one day I went to the restaurant for a meal. It was the first time I had anything but indian food. Main pagal ho gaya. Sab kuch alag tha (I went crazy. Everything was so different)! "In New York, I learnt how to adapt new ingredients in Indian cuisine though I never used the word fusion. That's when I realised that there is much more to Indian food than making the same food everyday." I asked him how do you cook like this? He invited me to help him out for catering. I had never seen food being cooked that way. After I started working with him, he encouraged me to serve Indian food. He'd say, 'People will scare you. It is only white people who control the industry, it's not for you. You are inferior, but don't listen to anyone.' Isse mera dar nikal gaya (That took away my fear). I freelanced with a lot of big chefs and learnt from them. I learnt how to adapt new ingredients in Indian cuisine though I never used the word fusion. That's when I realised that there is much more to Indian food than making the same food everyday. I became a different person.

  • Do you have any plans of opening a restaurant in India?

    Why should we all be clones? I have no plans of opening a restaurant in India, but I am working on my Kitchen Museum in Manipal. It is something I am very passionate about, through which I want to show how our utensils and cooking styles have changed over time. "I can open a chain of restaurants but businesses come and go. The kitchen museum is more immortal." I don't want to get emotional, but it is crazy. People find it funny that I get so excited about discovering a new bartan (utensil)in Kutch. It is ironic that we are talking about chhanis (sieves) in Cannes, but we have 311 different kinds of chhanis. I can open a chain of restaurants but businesses come and go. This is more immortal.

  • I am very excited to be talking to you, everyone in the country is talking about, the internet is abuzz and what you've done with your Feed India Drive is so inspiring. All of us who have been watching and seeing what is happening, this was you sitting in New York, making everything happen and the inspiration came somewhere from your Mother. So tell us about this.

  • Like everyone knows that you are one of the best Chefs in the World, so eloquent with the Food and with everything else. You know you went ahead and did it, many people get inspired but you went ahead and did it on such a huge scale and for such diverse set of people, the migrants to people with leprosy. The spectrum is so huge. How did you do this?

  • How do you translate the Guidance to Action? You're creating Magic for so many people everyday. How do you go about doing this?

  • You had your Grandmother but there was something in you. You were here in America, you were fighting it everyday. How do you fight the odds and do not get cynical because it is easy in your place, the kind of harshness that you have faced you could easily become cynical, but here I am seeing a Man who is so emotional, so sensitive and positive. How did you retain that?

  • Because what you do on a daily basis and I want to take a Cheat Sheet from you for everyone who's watching, is there anything you do everyday to keep yourself like this? There is I can see a child, I see innocence, I see purity, I see purpose and I see so much of positivity. How do you retain that?

  • Vikas, I want to thank you on behalf of everyone here in this Country. What you've done, you are such a maybe cliched word to use but you are a role model for all of us.

  • You know, what I am going to take away from this conversation is that people who are pure in their hearts always succeed in life.

  • Like cooking, filmmaking is about observation

    He’s one of the first Indian chefs to be conferred the Michelin Star in the US. So, when Chef Vikas Khanna turned filmmaker with The Last Color, it naturally created curiosity among his peers and fans. Based on the book by the same name, which Vikas has himself written, the film will be shown at the Palm Springs International Film Festival 2019 in the US in January. The story of Chhoti, a nine-year-old tightrope walker and Noor, a 70-year-old widow and their friendship, is a tale of the triumph of the human spirit that unfolds on the banks of River Ganges. Working with Neena Gupta, who plays the role of Noor, was a dream come true for Vikas. “She was extremely patient with me,” said the first-time director, who was on his way to the Golden Temple in Amritsar when we spoke to him. He was taking the film’s Blu Ray with him to seek God’s blessings, ahead of the film’s showing at the festival. “There will be three screenings of the film, which I’m told does not usually happen. So, I’m quite happy about that,” he said. The chef-turned-filmmaker spoke to After Hrs about his shooting experience...

  • Tell us about your experience of hosting the show-Kitchen, Khanna  & Konversations .

    I really enjoyed it because we have an interesting format — a talk show with cooking. These are the people who inspire us with their lifestyle and what they have achieved. At the same time, we are able to show just how versatile oats is, and how easily you can add it to any dish as a whole grain that is also rich in protein and fibre.

  • What is your favourite dish made of oats?

    I love experimenting with grains and making desserts with them. One can make delicious cobbler with oats. It’s one of my favourite dishes. I experimented with it many years ago. We mixed it up with some warm milk and it was kheer for us. It was amazing.

  • How do you think a boring ingredient like Oats can be cooked to make it seem more appealing?

    I think oats are on very neutral ground. It’s like maida and atta. This ingredient balances things out and if you have to make it interesting, you can add flavours to it. It is so versatile, you can do anything that you want.

  • How do you stay healthy and stick to a fitness and diet routine, while travelling?

    Due to travel and international time zones, I have been careful about not eating too late. I am disciplined enough that I don’t drink or smoke. It’s a very conscious decision. I have to work through the night. I think people overestimate the power of eating healthy. It’s not just about that. It’s about a healthy lifestyle. Diet is the key but other things balance it out.

  • What are some of the must-try recipes with oats?

    Try to substitute 1/4th of the flour with oats, while making paranthas. Also, next time you make kheer, add oats in it. I love them!