Vikas Khanna is an award winning, Michelin Starred Indian chef, restaurateur, food writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and the host of the TV Show MasterChef India. He is based in New York City. He is the goodwill ambassador for Smile Foundation and supports the cause of malnutrition in India. His Holy Kitchens film series explores the food sharing traditions in a spiritual context. People magazine named Vikas Khanna in the list of Sexiest Men Alive and also referred to him as "The Hottest Chef of America". In an exclusive interview Chef Vikas Khanna discusses his life journey with Better Kitchen.
What made you enter on this profession? Your early inspiration in life, well beyond your mother.
My life started in the middle of farms, vegetable markets and Sikh community kitchens at the Golden temple. Family coming together around tables for large Punjabi feasts made me fall in love with food and choose this profession.
Please brief us about your career growth/graph.
I started catering for small events and clubs at the age of 16.
Opened Lawrence Gardens caterers at 17
Went for graduation to WGSHA at 18
Trained at Taj, Oberoi, WelcomGroup n then worked at the Leela between 1994-95
Went back to Amritsar to run Lawrence Garden till 2000, November
Left for New York on 2 December, 2000
Worked at 14 odd jobs and many diners.
In 2001 started at Salaam Bombay.
Studied at CIA, Cornell and New York University
In 2004 cooked at James Beard House.
In 2006 appeared with Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.
In 2009 released Holy Kitchens
On December 2, 2010 opened Junoon.
July 20, 2011 cooked at The White House
October, 2011 received Michelin Star
October, 2011 premiered in MasterChef India.
Launched Utsav on May 17, 2015 at Cannes Film Festival
What are the unique achievements in your career.
I think my work is in progress. Meeting HH the Dalai Lama and cooking for him, I count as one achievement.
Your food ideologies.
Keep it relatable, yet be the strength to make it new and bold.
Your contribution to the culinary world.
We are very small to take any credit.
What is the future of culinary world? What changes you would like to see in this profession?
Oh yes. It has changed big time. At one time I was so shy to confess that I was studying to be a Chef. Now kids openly n proudly say that they choose cooking.
And the parents openly support them. Loveeee this moment.
How much focus do you give to health in your day to day cooking?
I am actually very conscious of health while cooking. I have tried to minimize the use of oils and creams.
Do you still use some traditional methods of cooking in your kitchen, what are they?
They are the best. Sometimes they are more expensive than modern traditions. But its a pride to do something that our traditions created. We have used hot stone cooking, Old vessels and earthen pots.
Do you encourage regional cuisines?
They are the soul of Indian cuisine. Its very important to bring less known or unknown dishes to the diners.
Which is your favorite cuisine and why?
Indian home cooking, Tibetan and Bhutanese. I think simplicity is the key to it.
Who is Current favourite chef and why?
Oh god. So many. Manjit Singh, Satish Arora, Pushpesh Pant, Sanjeev Kapoor, Gordon Ramsay, Eric Ripert, Ajay Chopra, Kunal Kapur, Varun Inamdar, Ranveer Brar, David Waltuck, Daniel Boulud and the list won't end. They all inspire me. Everyday.
What is your dream job/project?
Utsav- A Culinary Epic of Indian Festivals.
Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in food or cooking?
If I ever have children, they will choose whatever they want.
How do you maintain work life balance?
My life is mostly work. Very poor balance.
What is your goal in the next five years?
To work on more initiatives, missions of reducing malnutrition and hunger in India.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Swimming, running, reading, traveling, documenting recipes.
What is your hobby?
Running n reading.
Do you eat out quite often? Which places do you prefer?
Veselka in East Village.
Your message to readers.
Live your life
Love your life.