The White House will eat out of an Indian chef’s cooking pot on July 29. India-born Vikas Khanna, who has also been voted New York’s hottest chef, has been invited to whip up some ‘spiritual food’ at the Hindu American Seva Conference to be held at the US President’s home.
Khanna, who’s chef, writer, film maker and humanitarian, has chosen temple fare to present at the White House Dinner. "It is a great honor for my family, my city and my mother land India," says the dishy chef who learnt cooking in his grandmother's kitchen in Amtitsar.
About his choice of Iskon inspired food for the White House Dinner, he says, "I just released my second film- Karma to Nirvana, a part Holy Kitchens film series. The film focuses on sharing food in Hinduism, essentials of ‘Atithi Devo Bhavo’ and life of Krishna. Working in the ISKCON in New Delhi and serving free meals to children in schools made me realize the power and purity of temple food."
The chef plans to make a very simple meal for the dinner. "I have been asked several times in my career about the person I would love to cook for, my answer is always "Mahatma Gandhi", so to keep that inspiration alive, I will be cooking a simple meal. It will include Vada Pao from the streets of Mumbai, Sookhi Yellow Daal from ISKCON, Aloo Tamatar from the Langar at the Golden Temple, Tawa Roti - to honor my grandmother Biji, who taught me how to cook and Seviyan - to honor Ramadan," shares Khanna.
The chef grew up in Amritsar, started his own catering business at 17, graduated from Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, and trained with Taj, Oberoi, and Leela. He later went abroad to study at the Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. He has some great memories of Delhi. "The vibrancy of the food of Delhi is legendary. Paratha Wali Gali, Bengali market, Canaught Place, Street Vendors, - the simplicity of the foods have helped inspire my restaurants, events, books, foundations and lots more," says the chef who’s favorite food is the Langar at the Golden Temple. Given his looks and six-pack abs, you're not surprised when he tells you he's lots of Hollywood directors coming to him with film offers. But Khanna is not very keen. "My kitchens are my stage", he tells them with a smile.
Khanna has worked with the most celebrated chefs in New York and is also the recipient of Access to Freedom Award from SATH (The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality), that was also awarded to George W. Bush and Prince Charles. His documentary series Holy Kitchens frame his journey to discover spiritual foods. He is also the founder of Sakiv foundation that supports relief efforts across the world. And does he plan to open any restaurant in India? "It will be a dream come true for my team and me," he says.