DARPAN thought the best way to make the joyous season more delicious and satisfying is to get the food expert himself to share his cooking secrets and recipes with everyone.
He needs no introduction – his mouth-watering dishes speak on behalf of him. Just one taste of his cooking is enough to understand his long-lasting presence in the culinary world and why he is popularly known as the ‘kings of chefs’ in India.
With his easy demeanour, cheerful commentary, and simple instructions, Chef extraordinaire Sanjeev Kapoor can make anyone fall in love with food and the art of cooking. With his charming personality and passion for food, he simply makes the most seemingly difficult dishes look easy to prepare. For the holiday issue, DARPAN thought the best way to make the joyous season more delicious and satisfying is to get the Master Chef himself to share his cooking secrets and recipes with everyone. After all, aren’t celebrations just incomplete without food? And tastier the food, a successful affair it is.
It goes without saying that food defines Chef Kapoor. According to him, the word food is synonymous to life. It continues to be an integral part of his successful journey that still has a long way to go. “What I have achieved today is majorly because of food!” agrees the National Award winner of Best Chef of India, talking about a career he opted for just by chance. “Some things are meant to happen, and this is probably one of those things.”
While it may seem like an easy task, cooking requires effort and interest. It demands patience, an eye for the right ingredients, a strong sense of smell and taste, and the magic of hands. And most of all, the desire and inspiration to create a taste that is unforgettable. “For me, each and every part of cooking is important and special,” adds in the famous cook, “from developing recipes and pre-prep to cooking and plating – I love them all!”
With years of practice, the Khana Khazana host has mastered these skills, while seeking inspiration from people and places for each new recipe. “As I have an open mind, travel a lot, observe a lot, taste everything on my way, I am ready to learn from anyone and can never be bound by scripted recipes, so creativity and innovation comes easy to me. Nature and ingredients are beautiful toys to play with and I love to experiment,” says Chef Kapoor who adapts to the changing times by coming up with new ideas each day and delivering according to the trends. And rightfully so, his recipes – ranging from soups and salads to mains and desserts – are highly creative with the right amount of ingredients. You will never find any of this food expert’s dishes bland. Why? Chef Kapoor’s most important cooking ingredient is salt. “It forms the crux of any and every dish. Would you want to eat a dish which is made of great ingredients, looks beautiful but lacks taste?” he questions, emphasizing on the importance of the ingredient.
As he discloses his cooking strategies one by one, it leads us to a question everyone wants to know – what is his secret to tasty cooking? “My ability to adapt and follow my instincts, most of the times!” he reveals.
Coming back to the holiday season, Chef Kapoor believes that food is a common language that binds people together during holidays and celebrations and creates conversations. “Anything and everything can happen over food!” he proclaims, “And I’m glad that I belong to a fraternity where we speak, breathe and live food.”
The talented chef enjoys spending his holidays trying out new cuisines and experimenting with food. Holiday comfort food, therefore for him, is something very local that belongs to a particular region or place. “For instance, while I am in Singapore, I never miss on the lovely and super delicious Chilli Crab and Chicken Rice,” he says of his comfort food that differs from destination to destination.
His ideal holiday meal – “unexplored food clubbed with peculiar experiences – everything from fine-dine to art-on-plate kind of food.” While satisfying his food frenzy, he also makes sure not to overeat to avoid health issues. Chef Kapoor’s healthy side comes forth when he states water as the perfect drink to sip on during the festive time. “This is the best you can do to keep your system hale and hearty inspite of binging on food during happy times!”
Beyond holiday feasting, comfort food for Chef Kapoor is each and every dish prepared by his mother – professing it as his all-time favourite food. “Besides this, my wife, Alyona, is a great cook too, and I love the undhiyo she makes,” he adds. Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, namely laksa, dim sum, tabbouleh, hummus, and falafel, also star in his favourite-foods list. “The dishes, Shaam Savera, Lalla Mussa Dal, and Gulab-e-Gulkand, are some of the signature creations that feature in the menu of my restaurant, The Yellow Chilli, and are quite special to me,” says the celebrity chef who owns top restaurants in India and abroad like Khazana, Signature, Hong Kong, and Gold Leaf Banquets.
Being the face of India’s culinary industry, Chef Kapoor aspires to place Indian food on a pedestal that no cuisine has ever been on before – “make it numero uno in the world.” Before biding farewell, he shares a few words of wisdom for young chefs about to start their journey in the industry. “First and foremost, to be a good chef you have to love food. Period!” he asserts, “Understand your strengths and work around them. Never cease to be a student, be humble. Always share your knowledge with others and keep raising the bar for yourself.”
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s top achievements
He has received the National award of Best Chef of India by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.
His food show, Khana Khazana ran for 18 years on ZEE channel, a record that is yet to be broken.
He is the first chef in the world to launch his own food channel FoodFood.
United Nations chose him as the Indian Ambassador for their Clean Cookstoves Campaign which was aimed at the underprivileged in developing countries.
Under the Spanish Government’s Indian Future Leaders Programme (IFLP), he represented India as a Food Ambassador.
His food label, Khana Khazana, was launched at the House of Commons in the United Kingdom by Fabian Hamilton, MP, North East Leeds, Yorkshire. Under the label, a wide range of food products, like pickles, blended masalas, gourmet chutneys, and 123 ready-to-eat mixes have found takers in India and abroad.
His books are bestsellers with more than 200 titles in seven languages. His book, The Yellow Chilli Cookbook, was awarded the Best International Cookbook at the 2012 International Book Awards, and his book on chocolates, aah! Chocolate, got the Gourmand Best Cookbook Photography award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2013 and the Best in the World award in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2014 in Beijing, China.
His portal (sanjeevkapoor.com) has been awarded the ‘Most Popular Website’ in the Website of the Year 2013 awards and ‘Best Website of the Year’ in 2014. The website is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 13,000 tried and tested recipes and a wealth of food related information.