It is an art to have people eat out of your hand, get completely absorbed into the conversation. And celebrity Chef Ranveer Brar is a pro at that.
When one sits down for his master class, few things are a given: it will be a full house, you will gain immense knowledge, and his charm will rub off on you. At the India International Hospitality Expo being held at Greater Noida, where Chef Brar rustled a delicious Lobster Barnyard Millet Biryani, the 30 minutes left the audience richer by few nuggets and Ranveerisms, as he calls them, besides endless lessons in sustainable cooking, and selfies with the man of the moment.
■ Lesson 1: Never underestimate the power of a witty, good looking chef. Dressed sharply in plaid trousers and black chef jacket, Chef Brar was welcomed to a loud cheer by hospitality students who formed the majority of his star-struck audience. With all the seats full, people happily stood on the sidelines to see him work his craft, seasoning it with valuable insights on grains like millets, ragi, amaranth, his latest travels to mountains, and life. “I will today talk about moving alternate grains to the centre of the plate. Our obsession with rice, and wheat often overshadows the nutritional bombs the alternate grains are. They are full of anti-oxidants; our elders understood it so well that they made it an important part of their diets: rajgira ladoos, millet khichdi,” he says, deftly cleaning the lobster. “During my travel to Ladakh last month, I saw locals using buckwheat and barley. I was impressed with the healthier alternatives these people were using,” he smiles. The audience remained bewitched.
■ Lesson 2: Chef Brar does not play to the gallery. Quinoa – the hot favourite as alternative grain, is fancied by many: sometimes for sheer taste, on other occasions, to look fancy. But this chef unabashedly declares, “I am the anti-quinoa lobby. This fascination for quinoa, which has more to do with showing off on social media, has to tone down. Amaranth is more potent than quinoa. We just need to recognise that,” says Chef Brar, who holds old cooking methods and local ingredients close to his heart. “Ancient cooking techniques always facilitate health. Also, locally available produce should be used as much as possible: this is ancient wisdom,” comes another Ranveerism, as he dashes the biryani with a generous squeeze of lemon.
■ Lesson 3: Alternate grains is the way forward. Finishing off the biryani with a dash of kewda because “the Lucknowi in me cannot do without kewda”, Chef Brar tells the audience that this masterclass and the conversation was not about the recipe but to push alternate grains to the centre of the plate. “All of us here must resolve to eat less wheat and rice, and more millets, rajgira, ragi etc. These times are about sustainable cooking and healthy eating.”