Taking India to the world: Vikas Khanna

In town for auditions to MasterChef India - 7, Vikas Khanna speaks to CE about his love for food, Hyderabadi cuisine, donning the apron in his own home, and more.
Vikas Khanna
Vikas Khanna

HYDERABAD: Chef, restaurateur, cookbook writer, filmmaker and humanitarian — Vikas Khanna wears many hats. However, he is most loved and remembered for being a delight on MasterChef India. In Hyderabad for auditions to the 7th edition of the show, he speaks to CE about his love for food, Hyderabadi cuisine, donning the apron in his own home, and more.

Indian cooking competitive reality shows MasterChef India is back after a long gap, serving as a golden opportunity for cooking enthusiasts in the country looking to learn and show their skills to the world.

Titled MasterChef India: India Ke Food Ka Tyohar, judge Vikas can’t be more excited about the show. Calling it an emotion rather than a show/season, he says, “What the show does to people, especially chefs and homes, is unimaginable. It’s a celebration of not just food but a culture that’s deeper than one can see.”

Explaining how the show contributes to the food and beverage industry, he says, “MasterChef has touched lives beyond the show. The way it uplifts and impacts several restaurants, kitchens, and businesses are beautiful. It’s much bigger than what meets the eye and is multidimensional, affecting chefs, vendors, bringing to light some ancient grains, recipes.”

He credits the show for changing the way India has perceived the art of cooking.

“A decade ago, chefs weren’t given the honour they now so rightfully deserve. Today, chefs are cultural ambassadors carrying forward the pride of Indian cooking. Back when I was growing up, cooking schools only taught us only french and other western cuisines and we were expected to learn under a white chef. I’m glad we took it as a personal war and today, I’m one of the first men of colour to have a Michelin-star restaurant in New York. This is a victory for the entire country, tomorrow, nobody will have the audacity to say you will only have to learn and cook western cuisine to be rich. These are places where I refuse to be humble, especially when it’s so easy to be whitewashed. Younger chefs get to enjoy how ‘sexy’ Indian food is and wear it as a badge of pride,” he smiles.

Vikas would be judging talent alongside other stalwarts Ranveer Brar and Garima Arora and says of them, “All the three of us are programmed differently but are equally passionate about food and cooking. It’s an experience I’m greatly looking forward to.”

One thing Vikas hopes contestants on the show have is ‘curiosity.’ “This one quality makes people want to learn from every success and failure that comes their way. More than wanting the title, being open to improvement, being groomed, taught, etc., ensures a contestant has a steady progress graph,” he says. Asked how often Vikas goes back home to cook his favourite meal before hitting the bed, he says, “I rarely get to don my apron at home, thanks to the hectic schedules and travelling. But whenever I do get an opportunity to cook for family and entertain guests, I thoroughly enjoy the experience.”

Having been to Hyderabad on multiple occasions before, it’s no doubt that the best in the world would mention Hyderabadi biryani and haleem as his favourites.

But when it comes to Telugu cuisine, he says, “Vepudu of any kind of vegetable” is his favourite. For a chef who has travelled the world, tasted and even prepared some of the best delicacies across the globe, you’d expect him to have trouble choosing a comfort meal. But Vikas’ tastebuds are as humble as can be: He names the khichdi as his go-to dish. Once he finishes MasterChef, Vikas will soon announce his new venture, a restaurant in New York that he calls an ‘exciting old and new architecture vehicle.’

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The New Indian Express