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Meet the chef: We talk to celebrity TV chef Sanjeev Kapoor

By Jyoti Balani on 9th June 2020

I met celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor the first time at an event in Delhi the year before last even though I had interviewed him earlier for a lifestyle magazine a few years ago via email. What amazed me was his simplicity and positive attitude which can put anyone at ease instantly. Even after so many awards and accolades coming his way over the years, celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor does not let any of it go to his head and that makes everyone respect him genuinely.

His fans range from the age group of 6-80, a feat surpassed only by Bollywood personalities. For a nation that loves to eat and cook, Sanjeev Kapoor is very close to everyone’s hearts. Not surprising then that he figured in the Reader’s Digest list of 100 of India’s most trusted people. This celebrity chef’s easy demeanor, cheerful commentary and simple instructions make the most seemingly difficult dishes look easy to prepare.

He has been awarded the prestigious Padma Shri Award 2017 by the President of India. His popularity and contribution to Indian cuisine has been recognized by the Government of India and he was honoured with the National award for ‘Best Chef of India.’

Sanjeev Kapoor is also on the panel of the Ministry of Tourism, on the board of Singapore Airlines International Culinary Panel along with the brightest names from the culinary world across the global culinary capitals. He divides his time in India and abroad by doing live food events and cooking demonstrations for which is he is always in great demand.

Achari Pulao is a delicious and easy to prepare rice dish

What is your favourite dish to cook at home?

I cook anything and everything that my family loves. My daughters love Italian, South East Asian and Thai. My wife, Alyona enjoys flavourful international cuisine and Middle Eastern food. I am equally at ease with Punjabi kadhi, khichdi, masala dosa and cutting edge food of the world. So, you see there’s the world on a platter at our home!

What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food? Which is your favourite place to dine?

My favourite will always be comfort food, more when it’s ‘maa ke haath ka khana!’Besides home, the list is quite exhaustive for my favourite places to dine at! I don’t like to go to the same restaurants all the time. There is always a new place that is on my list to try.

Adding vegetarian or vegan menus to the menu: what is the trend/experience with this?

I think it’s a great initiative. People who are on a vegan diet can go out and enjoy good food, just like others. And there’s a lot, that’s not boring and delicious too that restaurants are offering. I’m sure, in the coming years, there will be more vegan menus, restaurants and recipes. Even somebody on a regular diet wouldn’t want to miss out on it!

Vegan Palak Paneer is a spinach and tofu based dish

Please tell us more about the concept of zero wastage and how you have contributed to it so far. Does this put pressure on your budgets?

As someone who has been brought up with not throwing even an empty oil tin and converting it into a storage bin; zero wastage concept is ingrained in my mind. Zero wastage is basically to avoid any kind of wastage, in fact reuse and recycle anything and everything possible. I have been following this concept forever and encourage my team to follow this. From using leftover food to create dishes that stand out, to root to stem cooking and everything in between, you name it and I would happily vouch for it.

We need to keep sustainability and reduction in wastage at the core of our business models and realign our industry’s existing aesthetics with what they should be. Whether it’s at work or at home, we should all make sure to avoid any kind of wastage.

Food and water wastage are some of the major concerns of today, that need to be discussed, which is why my team and I always keep stressing it through our content. And I feel, if the intention for doing something is right and aims at betterment in the larger picture, the budgets are always dealt with, without any pressure; in-fact forget pressure on budgets; it helps control the budget.

Dal Khichdi is one of Sanjeev Kapoor’s exclusive recipes

Tell us about the concept of ‘farm to fork’ and how it helps to promote the idea of sustainability and good health. How do you think we can create awareness amongst more chefs and restaurants and hotels so that they contribute to this initiative?

‘Farm to fork’ is a concept where it is all about eating local, organic and fresh food. Restaurants which serve absolutely fresh and local produce without undergoing any process come under this umbrella. Eating local and unprocessed food is always healthy as it helps our body to function well. I feel it also is a great way to protect our environment since we are helping local businesses. Also, no use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers is also a great way to avoid pollution.

A lot is already being done in the hospitality industry when it comes to this concept in particular. The younger generation, independent restaurateurs, etc. are putting more emphasis on it and adapting it in their menus already. I personally have been speaking and advocating about it at various shows, talks and events and I’m glad that it is reaching masses along with people in the business too.

One hindrance that I see is that most of our dining places are in cities with farms being far away. That puts pressure on the supply chain. We need more restaurant concepts on the periphery of the cities closer to the actual farms.

Sanjeev Kapoor is a popular TV celebrity chef whose easy demeanor, cheerful commentary and simple instructions make the most seemingly difficult dishes look easy to prepare

For a long time India had more vegetarians as compared to those who ate non vegetarian food, do you think we are going back to the previous times where more people are now advocating vegetarianism? What is the reason for this change and how will it impact the food that we eat?

In my view, Indian cuisine is largely about vegetarian food for a simple reason that we have the most number of vegetarians. And yes, I agree to the fact that people are going back to the roots and following vegetarianism again because they have understood the worth of nature in their lives. Every change is good, especially this one in particular.

I think people have become more aware about their responsibilities towards the environment which has led to this transition. But there’s still a long way to go, and we being in the business, have much more to contribute on how being a vegetarian may be a boon for promotion of foods of India globally!

To check out some fantastic easy to make recipes go to sanjeevkapoor.com