He’s is a mamma’s boy and a proud one at that. Chef Vikas Khanna has never shied away from mentioning her in all his interviews and today is no exception. “As I launch my new book, Everyone Can Cook, I seek her blessings as there could be no one more special than my mother,” he says. And it is not only his mother, but also his grandmother who he never misses out in any conversation. “The greatest fortune of growing up with grandparents is the transcendence of culture. My grandmother taught me how to roll breads—something incredibly simple and basic, yet people find it hard to roll a perfect circle. I also learnt from her that cooking with a sense of purpose is the key to people’s hearts,” says the chef who loves going to the Golden Temple to do seva.
With two basic principles guiding his life— patience and hospitality—Khanna has never lost focus. Book after book, he remains humble, unassuming and friendly. In his new book, Khanna puts together easy-to-cook recipes using a variety of canned ingredients. It comprises starters, soups, meat preparations, poultry, seafood, vegetables, sandwiches, pastas, breads and desserts—all out of canned ingredients. He has thrown in some beverage options as well. It appears an ideal guide for beginners staying away from family and those looking for easy and quick recipes. “My first memory of canned food takes me to my first Christmas in America in 2000. I was in the kitchen of New York Rescue Mission where I was exposed to how canned food was helping feed the needy. The people who made the food there weren’t trained chefs but always come together to help. It was then that I realised that everyone can cook and that became my philosophy,” Khanna says.
Dedicating the book to the sustainability of Earth, Khanna becomes breathless while counting us the benefits of canned foods. “I did extensive research and realised that it impacts each one of us directly or indirectly. From the families who provide vegetables and fruits to canneries to the people who work in the canneries, to those who transport the cans to markets and finally those who collect the cans and recycle them—it is a self sustaining process. Besides, these cans have no toxic emissions,” says Khanna.
The chef, who relishes mostly simple home cooked food, fondly remembers how his grandmother would feed him everyday when he was a child.
“During Operation Blue Star, I was refusing to eat Aloo Curry made by my grandmother, as it was made every day during the curfew. One day, when I became adamant about not eating it, she kissed my forehead and said ‘This is not Aloo Curry, this is Curry Aloo’. That to me was absolutely the greatest lesson about food. Even in scarcity, food is a sacred expression of love and sustenance. Ever since that day, I have held food in reverence,” he says.