‘Food is sacrosanct for Indians’
Chef Vikas Khanna, author of book Flavours First is the new judge on MasterChef India. He is excited about the venture and emphasises the importance of food in Indian culture.india Updated: Aug 24, 2011 16:30 IST
Half a month ago, there was uncertainty about who would be the perfect replacement for actor Akshay Kumar on MasterChef India Season Two. Three names were being considered to play the desi Matt Preston (judge-food critic on MasterChef Australia). Over the weekend, Star Plus has appointed chef Vikas Khanna as their version of Preston to complete the judges’ trio that already has chefs Ajay and Kunal on board from the first season. The new judge on board is enthusiastic: “We’ve just started shooting. The first of the big episodes is going to be shot in Hyderabad. It’s an exciting journey because I’m new to this medium. Also, I risked a high-paying job for the love of cooking. I’m sure I’ll find someone who can risk everything for a full-time career in the kitchen because then, I’ll get a chance to repay whatever I’ve got from lots of people in the course of my cooking career.”
Vikas, like Matt, has authored a few culinary books. The first was titled Flavours First. He’s now penning another one called Return To The River. “I’ve clubbed and tried to sufficiently represent all the cuisines from places around the Himalayas. It’s taken me a lot time to experience their food before writing about it; whether it’s from Kashmir, Leh, Ladakh or any other area. I plan to release it next year on Dalai Lama’s birthday,” he says.
When asked about the impending comparisons with last season’s star judge, Akshay Kumar and his Australian counterpart, Matt Preston, whose show currently airs on Star World, Vikas, who watched MasterChef India’s first season in the USA last year, giggles, “I love both of them, but they’re such different personalities. Akshay is a star whose films I enjoy watching. Matt is someone who is nearly worshipped as a food critic. I know there will be comparisons, but it’s okay. I’m ready.”
Vikas, who has cooked for celebrities like Richard Gere, Tyra Banks, Salman Rushdie, Harrison Ford, Christina Hendricks, Martha Stewart and ace tennis player Andre Agassi, believes that Indians are the only ones who worship food.
“Food is sacrosanct for Indians. It’s their life. If you notice, our MasterChef show has much more drama because people are emotional about food,” he explains. “In other countries, like Australia, it’s just another thing. That’s why the judges can be a lot more critical on the shows out there there, MasterChef Australia. We have to be very cautious of people’s emotions here."