Made in Chandigarh: Since his city days, Kunal Kapur has been cooking up a storm | punjab | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Made in Chandigarh: Since his city days, Kunal Kapur has been cooking up a storm

Chef Kunal Kapoor studied hotel management in Chandigarh and was a student here from 1997 to 2000, when he graduated. Over the last few years, his work has brought him back to the City Beautiful often.

punjab Updated: Apr 20, 2018 21:17 IST
Jagmeeta Thind Joy
Jagmeeta Thind Joy
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Kunal Kapur,celebrity chef,Chandigarh
Kunal Kapur with a classmate during on-job training in Chennai. (Courtesy: Chef Kapur)

One of the most popular chefs on television and now social media, celebrity chef Kunal Kapur learnt to appreciate the simplicity of meals and the essence of Punjabi khaana here.

Name: Kunal Kapur

Age: 38 years

Claim to fame: Kapur is a celebrity chef and winner of several culinary and television awards. He has played host on Masterchef India and Junior Masterchef India and was invited to judge the semi-finale of Masterchef America with Chef Gordon Ramsey. He has been honoured with Dr. S Radhakrishnan National Media Network Award. The Indian Television Academy awarded him for the Best Jury/Anchor on television for Junior Masterchef India. Kapur is also the proud recipient of the prestigious ‘Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship 2012’ from the Government of New Zealand in the field of Food & Beverage and has authored many cookbooks.

Hometown: New Delhi

Education: Kapur studied at St Francis De Sales School in New Delhi and is an alumnus of Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), Sector 42, Chandigarh.

My Chandigarh connect: I studied hotel management in the city and was a student here from 1997 to 2000 when I graduated. Over the last few years, my work has brought me to the city often.

My area of expertise: Having worked with some of the leading hotel chains like the Taj Group of Hotels and The Leela group, I specialise in Indian cuisines and, in recent years, in food research. I am also a passionate photographer and gardener.

My secret to success: There are many things that make a person successful and there are a lot of people involved in one’s journey. It starts as early as school and college with our teachers. So has been the case with me, but when I look back I think my travels in India and around the world have really been key to my success as a chef. Travel helped me embrace not just all kinds of food but also different people and cultures.

The turning point: For me, the turning point came when I actually started loving what I do. Let me explain why I say this. Initially, my life was very hectic. I would work long hours and weekends. At that point, I started comparing myself with people who would have weekends off or had more time on their hands. Then one day I accepted that this was how it was going to be. The day I accepted it, things changed. I started to enjoy what I do.

What I owe to Chandigarh: My stay in Chandigarh was my first time away from home. My parents were initially very apprehensive. But when I came here, I didn’t feel out of place. I saw how people bonded with each other. Every festival – be it Lohri, Diwali, Holi – it would be a community affair. I imbibed this community spirit. Chandigarh helped me hone my tastebuds, especially when it came to kebabs and curries. As young students we survived on humble meals that cost as little as Rs 10 and this included unlimited rotis. It taught me humility. I also learnt to appreciate the simplicity of meals and the essence of Punjabi khaana (food) here.

Things I like to do when I visit Chandigarh: I always look forward to eating out when I am here. As students, our favourite haunt was the Sector 34 market. I remember a small little takeaway joint here called Chaplin. I love visiting the place when I am in Chandigarh. It brings back memories of college days. We relished all meals here including the speciality - tomato paneer. The owner knew we lived on a budget and would always give a little extra portion, including complimentary salad. I have been hooked to the place ever since my first year of college.

How has the city changed over the years: I think not just cities but people change as well. It’s progression. I think over the years, I have become better and my Institute has become better too. But I must say I hate how the roundabouts now have traffic signals. I still love Sukhna Lake even though it is overcrowded. I think the city has evolved but maintained an old world charm.

The change I would want to see in the city: I come from Delhi and over there I see a disconnect between people and those who run it. I want the residents of Chandigarh and the people who manage it to have a better bonding. I feel it is important for a city to move forward together. I would like Chandigarh to maintain its identity and be a better city not just with regard to infrastructure but in arts as well. I remember reading how Le Corbusier emphasised art and I think efforts should be made to keep it alive.

The secret of success in the hospitality industry: I always tell people who are keen about a career in hospitality or are pursuing hotel management to laugh out loud and sometimes laugh at yourself. It is a very stressful environment to work in. It’s equally important to put your head down and learn. Youngsters shouldn’t worry about the money. It is more important to get the skill right, the money will follow.