Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna, voted one of the Sexiest Men Alive by People magazine, the man who also owns one of New York’s hottest new restaurants, Junoon, never tires of extolling the virtues of a man who can cook. In an interview with Men’s Health magazine, the Amritsar born chef talks about why cooking is sexy and the reason why it took him 20 years to perfect a dish.
You say you want to make the word bawarchi sound sexy. Is it really cool for men to cook?
It is hot to cook! Women connect to food in a much deeper way than men: for them, a guy who cooks is a sign that he can take care of them. Surprise her once…instead of taking her out for an expensive dinner, treating her to what someone else has cooked, do something on your own and see what it does to her. It’s not just hot to be cooking. It is fashionable… it is therapeutic.
People magazine named you among the sexiest men alive a few years back... a dream come true for you?
I think it was about food... yes, food is sexy. If you know how to put together something edible, you will come across as sexy.
How can men get cooking right?
It’s no rocket science. There are three Ts to cooking: temperature, timing and technique. Get these right first. You will never begin with the perfect dish. Start with the simplest; don’t be overambitious. Even the best chefs in the world take time to perfect a dish: as long as even 20 years in my case. The first dish I made was horrible: the haldi was undercooked, the masalas tasted weird.
You are always surrounded by food. How do you still keep fit?
I am disciplined when it comes to eating and working out. I work out for six hours every week, and add two hours of cycling as frequently as I can. I am generally on a highprotein diet. Egg whites, lots of dals, sprouts and grilled chicken do it for me. I also try and never eat past 9pm.
You never follow any templates?
I never follow any template. I do what I love doing most. 20 years ago, I used to sell a meal for Rs. 200 in Amritsar. It included a cold drink or a soup, samosa, and a slice of vanilla ice-cream. A few months ago, I sold a meal for R20 lacs in New York. I made a place for myself in the equation as an outsider because I was passionate about cooking.
Rules to remember in the kitchen
Positive energy: Before my grandmother started anything, she used to have a cup of tea and thought through everything she was going to do. It is called visualisation. Whenever I’m stressed, I remember her words.
Keep it clean: If your kitchen is clean, it clears your thoughts. Once you are inside the kitchen, you don’t want to waste time looking around for things.
Meditation: Meditating recharges your spiritual batteries and helps you face the stress in the kitchen head-on.
Don’t be impulsive: My biggest power is my ability to hold my response. I too get angry. But I choose to be in control of when and where I lose my temper.
Humility: I made a place for myself in the equation only with my hard work and passion for food. I am simply a person who is carrying on the legacy of our rich food history and culture.