Chef and author Vikas Khanna: Culinary wizard & beyond

It is important to keep going at it and work consistently with passion if one wants to succeed in the beautiful culinary world, he says.
Chef Vikas Khanna (Photo | AP)
Chef Vikas Khanna (Photo | AP)

CHENNAI:  Prerna, a woman now in her fifties, has been running an Indian restaurant in downtown Manhattan for two decades. Her life starts to unravel when she suddenly loses her son, her lease, and with these, her passion for cooking. Caught in the grip of newly awakened emotions, Prerna finds herself confronted by many haunting questions from her past, which take her back to her motherland, India. And so begins an intensely personal struggle.

Would Prerna be able to forgive herself, escape her past and rediscover her true passion? The heartwarming tale of a chef’s journey back to her roots forms the premise of the recently released book by chef and author Vikas Khanna titled Imaginary Rain. Khanna is one of the most beloved Indian chefs in the world. He is an award-winning Michelin Star chef and the host of highly-rated prime-time shows, such as MasterChef India, Twist of Taste and India’s Mega Kitchens.

Chef Khanna has been a guest on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen, as well as The Martha Stewart Show, Throwdown! with Bobby Flay and MasterChef Australia. He has hosted events for former US president Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many other world leaders and celebrities.

In 2015, Deutsche Welle named him as one of the world’s ten most iconic chefs of all time. Not only that, Chef Khanna works with several foundations worldwide to support the fight against malnutrition in India.

An autobiographical journey

Talking about the book, Chef Khanna says, “The book revolves around a dark subject the struggle of brown people living abroad. Before I got my first Michelin star, there was a lot of hard work led to it. There were so many invisible layers, so many people to thank, and many sacrifices made.

The book highlights the pain of NRIs. The disconnect they feel after leaving everything behind to chase after the great American dream. When I came to the US, I promised my mother that no matter what, I will not sell my soul. I had to work hard to change people’s perspectives abroad. No one respected Indian chefs as chefs treated more like a cook.

Now things are changing, people have started to respect Indian food. There is a line in the book ‘Pata nhi ajkal India bohot yaad raha hai’ the angst people feel when they are down and away from home. Also, I am turning this book into a motion picture where actress Shabana Azmi will play the lead and it release later this year.”

Further adding about how he manages to do all the caps together as a chef, author, judge and filmmaker, he says, “I want to extend myself to every possible direction, be it writing, judging or movies. I plan my work a lot and juggle between books, restaurants, movies and shows. In fact, I just completed writing another book which will release in the coming years.”

When asked what made him zero in on the title Imaginary Rain, he laughs and says, “I like to keep it a secret. At the end of the book/ movie people will get to know why this title. Moreover, I feel the need to use my voice against oppression and bullying. When you have the voice and stage, it is important to address issues.”

Getting it real

Elaborating about his 13-year association with a cooking reality show, MasterChef India, he says, “It has been a great journey, celebrating cultures, roots and people. This season Michelin Star awardee Garima Arora made her debut on the show, whom I had been trying to get on board for four years. Her presence elevates the platform.

She is awesome and the work she has done is inspiring so many people. Also, working with chef Ranveer Brar is always fun. Both of us have common roots and I am proud of his achievements.” There are lots of possibilities in the culinary world now, shares chef Khanna.

“If you are interested in joining the culinary world, just go for it. It is important to keep going at it and work consistently with passion if one wants to succeed in the beautiful culinary world,” he says.

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