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October 2016, Issue"I Personally Think I Can Take The Credit For Exciting Over a Million People to Like Cooking "

Harpal Singh SokhiCelebrity Chef Turban Tadka Hospitality.

Harpal Singh Sokhi is known as “Energy Chef of India” and “Dancing Chef of India”. Hailing from North India, which, like the rest of India is rich in culture and cuisine, Harpal is a music lover and is fluent in English and five Indian languages, namely Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Oriya and Telugu. His quest for knowledge left him hungering for more, so he undertook some branches of research on Indian food and its implications on health. Harpal was awarded Indo Australian Cultural by the Victorian Council Australia for promoting Indian food and culture in Australia. In a chat with Better Kitchen the multitalented Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi describes his journey.

What made you come into this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
Having brought up in a small town Kharagpur, West Bengal, knowing for IIT and Railways, I was preparing for my engineering exams, when my elder brother happened to share the hotel management JEE and asked me to give it a try. He believed that the Hospitality industry would grow and if you develop the passion, one would grow. That is how I came into doing Hotel management and developed a passion to become a Chef in the second month of my first year of Hotel Management. There was no looking back every since then, it was only hard work and perseverance that paid of off.

At home my father would cook food especially on Sundays. He would buy groceries, vegetables, meat and then come back home and cook for all of us. He would also do the community annual pickles for everyone in the extended family. So my mother did influence me with her homely cooking skills I also inherited the same from my father too.

Please brief us about your career growth/graph.
My journey as a Chef began quiet early as I was studying hotel management. I developed a liking towards kitchen very early and pursued the same passionately. I never looked back doing anything else. My early days after passing hotel mgt was in Oberoi Bhubaneswar as a Trainee Cook and from there on I moved to Mumbai to be a Chef in Centaur Hotel Juhu Beach where I become a Banquet Chef and moved to further to get some international exposure which was very short lived though. Worked in a restaurant called Vintage which was a Hyderbadi specialty restaurant where I developed my passion for great Indian food. I went on the work in the Royal Kitchens of Nizams and streets of Hyderabad to acquire the knowledge of great Nizami food. While I was 27 I became Executive Chef of a 5 star hotel in Nagpur called Tuli International. Moved ahead to open the finest Luxury hotel in Mumbai The Regent as a Chef.

My passion for exploring Indian food took to me places. I had the opportunity to travel length and breadth of the country for my Television Show Desh da Swaad on Zee News and Turban Tadka Show on FOODFOOD. To encourage home Chefs I do a very passionate who on PTC Punjabi Television network called Punjab de Super Chefs.

As I began growing my own company Turban Tadka Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. I ventured into restaurant franchising, developed a business vertical called Happy Chef which is my non stick cookware and home appliances, brand. I also manage my food products brand under the umbrella of Capital foods. In digital space we have our very own channel and network which is amongst the top 10 channels in the country.

What are the unique achievements in your career.
The begin with last things first I would say that the recent high points of my career where being awarded the Best Chef of the year 2016 at the National Restaurant Congress. My unique experience of participating in the Dance Reality Show Jhalak Dhiklajaa a popular format of Dancing with the stars.

As a Chef I touched upon the sweet point of brining fun into cooking through my television shows. My shows help in exciting people to cook more at homes. My most popular jingle Namak Shamak Namak Shamak Dal dete hain is a rage in the country and everyone recognizes me by the jingle.

I was amongst the early chefs in the country to do Fusion food and managed to draw lot of attention creating unique recipes which were very popular at The Regent Mumbai.

Have cooked for various dignitaries and delegations and Celebrities during my career.

Your food ideologies.
When one has to excite a million people it is important to keep it simple. I believe that food should be simple, yet authentic.

Your contribution to the culinary world.
Well my biggest contribution in the Culinary world I personally think is that I managed to excite more than million people across the world the develop a liking towards cooking. My recipes have been simple to follow, which excited people from the age group of 10 years to 80 years to cook.

What is the future of culinary world? What changes you would like to see in this profession?
I always believe that when it comes to Food India is like Amazon still undiscovered and unexplored. There is so much around in the country which we are yet to see. The world talks about Molecular and modern food, which is a great way to move ahead however I still believe that there is still lot of things left to explore from each state in India.

I still believe that Ayurveda is completely unexplored, ancient royal cuisines from various states have been not touched upon. In my pursuit to learn as much of each of these cuisines and share it with the world.

I am trying to create a community of people who can share recipes from across states so that we document more of it.

How much focus do you give on health part of cooking in your day to day cooking?
I think health is wealth. Good food at times might not be healthy hence a lifestyle which supports what you eat in moderation is advised. I strongly believe that you must eat everything and not deprive yourself of good food; indulgence is also okay with me at times however if you don't balance the act rightly then you are calling for trouble.

Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen, what are they?
I think it is very important not to forget our traditions and ancient ways of cooking. While the world is moving ahead and innovation is the key to success these days, it is important that you recreate traditional methods and give a new appeal to the youngsters. We still follow the traditional way of cook dal at home especially black dal for hours on slow flame what we call as slow cooking, however the medium of cooking has changed. All festival sweets that each of the household makes across the country is very traditional. I personally use earthenware cooking at times to get the great flavours of fish curry. People living in major metros do have a constrain of using traditional formats these days though, however in smaller cities you still have people using traditional methods of pickling, slow cooking of Rajasthan Dal Batis, in Punjabi households you still have dals being left over night on cowdung fire and cook slowly. At home however when you cook Hyderabadi food I follow the traditional method of sealing the vessel and cooking on dum.

Do you encourage regional cuisines?
Regional cuisines and street foods are the flavor of the season. This year we have seen lots of restaurants emerge serving traditional and street foods from across the country. India is a vast country and cuisine changes in each state. Every city has something unique to offer, these dishes are being recreated by all Chefs and showcased across in their outlets. Since I get to travel a lot my restaurants Twist of Tadka serves food from across traditional kitchens and streets. BBjaan my five star fine dining restaurants offer cuisine from Royal Kitchens of India, be it Hyderabad, Awadhi, Royal Kitchens of Indore, Jaipur and other states.

Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
Personally there is no second to Indian food. So much to taste and so much of variety, I simply love to indulge each day in different cuisines India has to offer. Even at home we cook Mangalorean fish curries, Maharastrian dishes, Punjabi Dishes, Rajasthani Chillas. At home we also Indulge in Thai food, Mediterranean food. Personally if were to think of one cuisine outside of Indian food then it would be Mediterranean food because of the great offering and grills.

Who is Current favourite chef and why?
When it comes to Television I love to follow Bobby Chin, AInsley Harriot and Emirle Lagasse for their sear comic timings while cooking. They are fun to watch so am I on Indian television history. Professional naming one would be dishonouring loads of people whom I respect be it Chef Satish Arora, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, Chef Manjit Singh Gill and many more. Pick up the best from everyone.

What is your dream job/project?
Dream projects are lined up in my bucket list, owning more restaurants and creating more franchises, spreading my Home Appliances business Happy Chef across the world, reach out to more people and get them hooked on to Indian food.

Have a great resort at the foothills of Himalayas serving rejuvenating food for the soul.
The biggest dream is to keep working for the specially able Girl Child, create things for such communities which can help and serve them.

Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
Of Course I would encourage more people to pursue career in food and cooking. The hospitality industry has opened up it's door and there are many more career options for everyone, be it making your own YouTube channel, becoming an early entrepreneur, working across fields in Sales as you fit in very well doing such jobs. I think people have started looking at hospitality from various angles and there is a lot the hospitality professionals can do these days.

How do you maintain work life balance?
As I travel across the world a lot, when in Mumbai I ensure that I take time off to spend quality time with family. I enjoy working out, jogging, evening cycling at times. I ensure that I do not miss this at any point of time. In fact keep traveling with my jogging kit too and whenever I get time I move out to jog.

Watching movies with family and dinners are a regular feature when at home. Also helping out in kitchen and cooking for children are part of my routine when at home.

What is your goal in the next five years?
I would wish to see my company grow and share the growth success with all people who have helped me achieve my goals.

How do you like to spend your free time?
I enjoy exercising and watching television. I keep watching travel shows mostly. Love traveling a lot and which happens naturally due to the nature of my job. This helps me build new friends from across the world and stay connected.

What is your hobby?
Just completed a dance realty show Jhalak Dhiklajaa. I was waiting for some years for such an opportunity. The next in line to start learning violin and should begin soon. Reading books specially related to my field is something which I enjoy and go back to my studio kitchen and recreate the great dishes. Would love to visit Malaysia for learning carving of fruits and vegetables and yes spend a week's time enhancing my molecular gastronomy skills in Spain.

Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Family outing once a week is a must. We keep visiting to various different restaurants across. Most of the time we end up eating Indian food only as the family choice matter first. However when I travel out then indulgence in street foods to the best restaurants is a must for learning.

What's your dream kitchen?
I have my own dream Studio Kitchen called Studio Chopping blocks. Every time I travel and if I get anything of great interest for the studio I keep buying. I have almost everything that I required for cooking great dishes and would love to keep adding modern gadgets that would help me cook new age food. SO in my bucket list is a Sue Vide cooking appliances, a complete molecular gastronomy set.

Your message to readers.
Eat Healthy Stay Wealthy, Stay happy, Happy Cooking to all of you. Namak Shamak Namak Shamak Dal Detey hain.