His Andheri office isn’t all about pots and pans. It’s a concatenation of rooms leading to the master chamber where the 42-year-old celebrity presides Sultan like over a kingdom created out of spices, sauces and seasonings.
Over a cup of herbal tea, he talks about the recipe of how to make it big in a profession, which was once mainly identified with household khansamas and bawarchis. Over to Sanjeev Kapoor.
With so much on your plate, what are you focusing on nowadays?
I’m focusing on my processed foods brand. Under the label of Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khazana, we’re marketing a range of pickles, masalas and ready to cook mixes. More cookbooks are on the way as well, in both large as well as small-sized formats.
I’m also looking at the expansion of my restaurant chain Yellow Chilli which has branches in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Delhi, Noida, Panchkula, Faridabad and Guwahati.
What about Mumbai?
There are plans for sure, I’m looking at several possibilities but nothing has been firmed yet.
What would you say about the city’s eating out culture? How would you rate our restaurants?
Frankly, I personally love home cooked food. I don’t think any restaurant can compete with ghar ka khaana. Yes, but there’s scope for much improvement. There is much to be desired in terms of hygiene in our restaurants. Their food and presentation may be impeccable, but most of their kitchens are filthy. The authorities should look into this, urgently.
Besides hygiene, what do Mumbai’s restaurants need to think of?
It’s sad that despite being the capital of Maharashtra, the city doesn’t showcase any cuisine of the state. Maharashtra has diverse cuisine ranging from Vidarbha to Pune to Kolhapuri and Konkani but tell me one place that serves these. Suhas Awchat’s Diva Maharastracha does make an attempt. But what about the others? The city needs a Maharashtrian food place.
Aren’t Mumbaikars opting more for international cuisine than Indian?
No, absolutely not. We don’t go for authentic cuisines, we just adapt international cuisines to suit the Indian palate. The Chinese we get here is hardly Chinese, it is Indian with some Chinese influences. What would pizzas be without chicken tikka,aloo tikki burgers are the hottest selling burgers at McDonald’s. We’re not open to change. So when a restaurant is truly authentic, it doesn’t survive for too long.
Your favourite cuisine?
I can eat anything. I focus on the positives of the food, so it’s rare that I don’t like anything. Give me salt-less food and I will like that too. Besides Indian, I enjoy Japanese.
Which restaurants do you go to with your family?
Mostly, it is they who decide, I just follow them. It actually depends what kind of mood I’m in. I like Pratap’s, the Dhaba for Indian and Mainland China for dim sums. I love the solkadhi at Gazalee, samosas at the Punjab Sweet Corner in Bandra and Goa Portuguesa for Goan fare.
Does Mumbai have a sufficient number of Indian restaurants?
Mumbai lacks a good North Indian place. You just don’t get good chhole bhature in the city. I miss that. It’s said the chhole bhature at Cream Centre is awesome but I don’t think so. Recently in Delhi, I had my heart’s fill on a food trail for the best chhole bhature in the Capital.
Who wears the chef’s hat at home?
Where else do I get to cook but at home? I cook on shows, but that's just about it. Otherwise it is more of a mental job these days. So the first opportunity I get at home, I pick up the pot and ladle.
Besides dancing and cooking, how do you de-stress?
I do neither, I polish shoes. I have other stress busters too, including repairing things, mechanical and electrical.
Why not dancing? Didn’t you take part in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa?
I could never dance for nuts. My wife is just the opposite. She loves dancing. I wanted to learn dancing just for her and so I accepted that offer.
I had fun all the way. It took a lot of time though. I was practicing for almost four to five hours everyday. Initially, it was supposed to be more about ballroom dancing and not about filmi dancing as it later turned to be.
Later it became taxing. By the end of it, I wanted to get voted out. My workload was piling and my choreographer also had her annual college exams. We asked all our friends to vote for Ajay Jadeja.
Was it that, or were you not comfortable performing alongside so many competent dancers?
Actually when the Sony people approached me, the line-up was different. There was a huge difference in what I was told initially and what it turned out to be. The original format of the show was not supposed to have anyone from the film or TV world. It was to feature only non-dancers- Kapil Dev, Rajdeep Sardesai and the like.