The reason he states for his profession not being big on women, “Women are just smarter!”
You develop an instant liking towards the culinary master, as he sits dapper in crisp white linen, against the glass wall of his 5-star hotel room. “Our profession is very demanding. One has to set social responsibilities aside to be able to give it all. But thanks to our social structure, working women are expected to bring in the money as well as look after the house and kids. The trend, however, is seeing a gradual shift,” says chef Kunal Kapur, adding that his affinity towards masalas and ‘kitchen equipment’ began with his dad and grandfather’s cooking sessions at home every Sunday.
A Delhi boy, now working for Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon, Kunal is a product of Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), Chandigarh. Recollecting his always-low-on-money days in the city, Kunal says, “Our favourite place to hog was Chaplin, Sector 34, mainly because the huge portions they offered. Another ‘hangout’ was SAS Nagar’s Amrit. Back in 1999, you could have their black dal for R10 with unlimited rotis! Given our shoe-string budget, we fell in love with his food. Besides, I was a Punjabi in Punjab. Food was my hobby.”
Is that the reason why all three Master Chef judges are Punjabis? After an impish grin he slowly says, “No. It’s just a beautiful cosmic conspiracy. You have to see us off-camera to know what I mean.”
Though we all appreciate a little bit of drama in life, isn’t Master Chef season 3 going overboard with sob stories? “To you and me, these might seem like sob stories. Our contestants have lived the hardships they talk about. It’s very overwhelming for them to sometimes absorb where they have reached despite the hardships. Our focus, however, remains food, and we’re trying to be very innovative this time.”
How far do you think these reality shows go in changing the face of domestic Indian food? “When I started off as a professional chef about 13 years ago with Taj, moms used to make pakoras for snacks. Today, pakoras have been replaced by pasta. So, yes, the culinary mindset of stay-at-home moms is gradually changing for the good. We’re opening up to new flavours. That can never be bad, now, can it?”
A Limca World Record holder for creating the tallest éclair tower in Gurgaon in 2010, this Kapur was invited as a guest judge on the semi-final of Master Chef US (season 2), being hosted and judged by Mr Intimidating, chef Gordon Ramsay himself. Ask him about Ramsay’s scary demeanor, and he says, “That guy is larger than life. He gets angry because he’s crazy passionate about food. Don’t mistake him for his screen character. Besides, being successful doesn’t give you the right to be arrogant.”
When in Punjab...
MC judge was in city with contestants Ripu Daman Handa -- 23-year-old gym instructor from Delhi -- and Happy Singh -- 25-year-old tattoo artist and restaurant owner from Ajmer. Happy’s restaurant, claims he, serves over 40 varieties of cholle bhature. Both the contestants are amongst the top 11 finalists of the show. To celebrate Baisakhi, the trio visited a city dhaba for a ‘lassi-drinking competition’ and a quick Punjabi food cook-off.