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HTLS 2017: Vikas Khanna, Gaggan Anand say intelligence, aggression and rock and roll attitude the way ahead for Indian chefs

Vikas Khanna and Gaggan Anand, at Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, have a tip for chefs — ‘Give up your life and pick up the knife’.

htls Updated: Nov 30, 2017 21:12 IST
Danish Raza and Bobby John Varkey
Danish Raza and Bobby John Varkey
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Vikas Khanna,Gaggan Anand,Ritu Dalmia
Vikas Khanna, chef, author and filmmaker and Gaggan Anand, chef and restaurateur, in conversation with Ritu Dalmia, chef and restaurateur at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on Thursday.(Paroma Mukherjee/HT)

Regional food, poetry and the changing world food scenario were on the menu as chefs Vikas Khanna and Gaggan Anand cooked up a storm at the 15th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Thursday.

Tempered with wit, India’s very own Michelin Star chef Khanna and Kolkata-born and Bangkok-based restaurateur Anand had the audience eating out of their hands.

The session, moderated by Delhi-based chef Ritu Dalmia, saw the two chefs push for regional Indian food, saying it was time to get out of the comfort zone of Punjabi cuisine.

Click here for live updates from the 15th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit

“Everybody wants to stay in the Punjabi world. Big hotels are playing safe with Punjabi cuisine, there is such a rich tradition of food in our southern states,” said Khanna, who ran a catering business in his hometown of Amritsar before taking New York by storm.

Anand chipped in, saying it was also about the art of selling.

“The jalebi and chaiwallas are doing very well in small towns. We cannot beat their skills but they don’t know how to franchise it,” said Anand.

Dalmia grilled the two on whether they favoured retaining the ethnicity of the Indian food or making it progressive when served to customers across the globe.

It was not just Indian food but food in general was changing, said Anand. “Twenty years ago, the only food picture one could think of was the image of caviar. Cut to present. We have started putting ants on plates and they have become more expensive than caviar,” he said.

Intelligence, aggression and a “rock-and-roll” attitude was the way forward, said Anand, who was a rock band drummer in his other life.

Click here for live broadcast of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit

Food was a way of self-expression with its own code and language, said Khanna, who has written 29 books. “There are no template menus anymore,” he said.

The writer-poet-chef also recited a poem he wrote when he was fighting a nerve disorder that affected his left hand. “Doctors told me that I may lose my hand. That was the time when I visited Nizamuddin shrine in Delhi and wrote the poem The Humble Seed.”

Asked the qualities he wanted in his life partner, Khanna said the person should be sincere, passionate about food and a good dishwasher. Dalmia picked on the last one. Khanna quickly added, “This is important because kitchens are very small in New York… and I would also help (doing the dishes).”

Advice for budding chefs? “Give up your life and pick up the knife,” said Anand.

First Published: Nov 30, 2017 13:13 IST