A lot of the memorable experiences in celebrity chef Vikas Khanna’s life have started with his love for Indian food. Be it his entrepreneurial endeavours, he is the Michelin-starred chef of one of the best Indian restaurants in New York, Junoon or his literary achievements, he has more than five books on Indian cuisine to his credit. And currently, Khanna is the happiest man on the sets of the Star Plus show, MasterChef – Kitchen Ke Superstar, because his passion for desi cuisine has now reached the television show, which he is the judge, host and mentor on. “It’s completely Indian this time,” he says excitedly, on a break from the ongoing shoot in the city, about the new season. “We are too busy looking outward, which is why a keen focus on Indian food is the need of the hour. The show is based on a lot of research that we have done within the country.”
Recalling the touching tale of one of the contestants, he adds, “She is a maid from Delhi. One of her employers applied on her behalf since she can’t read or write, but she has one of the greatest connections with food. She makes Michelin stars look unreal. Her faith in food is beyond anything I’ve seen before.” A few days ago, while shooting an episode, she stepped out on the sets anxious as she couldn’t pick the ingredients from the pantry because she was unable to read the labels as they were written in English. “The entire crew comprising 300 people did not foresee this situation, even though the India she represents is the majority of this country. She humbled all of us in that minute. The contestants’ humility and simplicity will bring about a permanent change in the viewers,” says the chef. Meanwhile, he is busy preparing to launch his next book, Savour Mumbai, in the city later this year.
Apart from focusing on the sheer variety of regional restaurants in Mumbai, the book will also highlight Khanna’s favourite street food.“I’ve worked a lot to simplify the recipes for people in the book, so they can create a small Mumbai in their own kitchens if they’ve never had a chance to visit this diverse city that I so madly love,” he says.
‘I presented Khanna Sutra to the Obamas’“I went to the White House for First Lady Michelle Obama’s birthday (on January 17). I wanted to present a copy of my book, Khanna Sutra, to her and President Obama, since it was the beginning of the Valentine season. When I presented the second copy of the book to them, President Obama asked me about the first copy. He told me I was standing in the blue room, in the White House, and I had presented them the second copy. He asked about the first copy, and I told them that the ‘first couple’ for me would always be my parents and the first copy would always be for them. I realised only later what I had said, but the thought at that moment came to me organically, and I believe he respected it due to that,” says Khanna.