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Indian chef is US’ rising star

india Updated: Sep 26, 2011 01:20 IST
Shara Ashraf

"Main Vikas bol raha hoon ji… Mumbai se…", that’s not how you expect one of the most celebrated chefs of New York to introduce himself on phone. But that’s Vikas Khanna for you, simple, unpretentious, and incredibly charming. He left India a decade ago, but speaks flawless Hindi and there’s not the slightest trace of accent in his English. The 39 year-old chef, who is currently in Mumbai, shooting for Star Plus’s Masterchef India 2, having replaced Akshay Kumar as the host, once again makes India proud by winning 2011 New York Rising Stars Chef Award, given away by StarChefs, an American online culinary magazine.

The chef, who’s also been voted New York’s hottest chef, says the award is a dream come true for him.“It assures me that the vision of seeing Indians at the helm of the food world is not far from being realised,” says the Amritsar-born chef, who moved to New York in 2000.

Khanna believes that the unselfish desire to share food is the strongest point of Indian food. “Whether it is the langar at the Golden Temple, the meals at ISKCON, or the Iftaar during Ramadan, all have a common factor devotion, faith and desire to feed people,” says the chef who runs two popular restaurants Junoon, and The Cafe in New York.

The chef, who’s shooting in Mumbai currently, is excited about his television debut, and his homecoming. “It is a privilege to host MasterChef India. Returning home after so many years and being a part of this new era in the history of our country is mind blowing,” he says.

However, it’s not been an easy journey for Khanna, who was born with misaligned legs. As a teenager, he met with an accident which resulted in partial blindness in his left eye. But conquering all odds, Khanna worked his way up to becoming one of the most famous chefs in the US. “It was only when I was 13 that I learnt to run. Hardships taught me that your outlook can turn the bleakest situation into the most promising one. No matter what life throws our way, there is always light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.

And girls, hold your breath, the search for a bride for this bachelor of the moment is on. “I’ll get married as soon as the right girl walks in,” he reveals. But the match would definitely need his mom’s seal of approval, who’s been his mentor all through.

Here’s one of Chef Vikas Khanna’s recipes for you to try:

2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbs oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
10 curry leaves
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup coconut milk
3 tbspoons lime juice
Salt to taste

In a frying pan over low heat, dry- roast cumin, coriander and fennel until aromatic. Grind all three to a fine powder with the chili and turmeric, using a spice grinder.Toss the squid with the spice mixture and refrigerate for 20 min. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and sauté until browned. Add the curry leaves, garlic and the marinated squid. Saute, stirring for a minute. Add coconut milk, bring to a boil and simmer for two min. Stir in lime juice, season with salt and serve.