Sanjeev Kapoor-The brightest star of Indian gastronomy
His fans range from the age group of 6-80, a feat surpassed only by Bollywood personalities. Men, women, children, soon-to-be-married girls, housewives, professionals, mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers! For a nation that loves to eat and cook, Sanjeev Kapoor is very close to Indian hearts. He is the go-to chef for everything…party at home? What-to-make-today situation? So much paneer, what to do? One stop solution – log on to the internet or his channel and cook up Sanjeev Kapoor’s recipes! Not surprising then that he figured in the Reader’s Digest list of 100 of India’s Most Trusted people. Ask those billions of Indians out there and their answer will be unanimous, when it comes to the most known and trusted faces on TV, Chef extraordinaire Sanjeev Kapoor’s name tops the list! His easy demeanour, 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 too, who conferred on him the National award of “Best Chef of India.” The Celebrity Chef is also on the panel of the Ministry of Tourism. He is 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.
Giving back to society
Sanjeev Kapoor’s brand Wonderchef is a huge success and the cherry on the sweet cake of success is the fact that it empowers many women, especially in the North East part of the country. The business model of the business is such that it enables women to become financially independent.
The Celebrity Chef Sanjeev also works closely with autistic children and helps the cause by supporting NGO “Forum for Autism” for over 12 years. Under Corporate Social Responsibility he has taken on himself the challenge of improving/feeding school meals to children in remote villages and children from economically weak families. Chef Sanjeev Kapoor works very closely with Akshaya Patra – the world’s largest NGO run mid-day meal programme that serves wholesome school lunch to over 1.7 million children in 14,702 schools across 12 states in India. Brand Sanjeev Kapoor in collaboration with the HRD ministry is also on board to structure and design a special menu exclusively for the students of all the 598 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNV) across the country. To develop qualified skills in his chosen field, he has started a college in collaboration with Symbiosis University, the first of its kind, by the name of Symbiosis School of Culinary Arts offering 3 year full time BSc degree in Culinary Arts.
How has the virus outbreak affected your work? Please tell us in detail about your recent CSR activity in collaboration with Indian Hotels Company.
The ‘virus’ is just another hurdle, in this race of life. Surely, it has brought changes that the world had never imagined of, but, in no way has it affected the spirit. I would say that this a ‘detox programme’ designed by nature, and each one of us will come out of it stronger. And how could I not be of any use to the ones who are selflessly helping us in these tough times and the ones who are really needy. So, as a responsible citizen, we have collaborated with Indian Hotels Company to create healthy meal packets designed for doctors, nurses, health care providers for various hospitals across Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. I have also collaborated with restaurant owners to provide food to the daily wage workers. The idea is to provide our real life ‘heroes’ with a nutritious and filling meal that would keep them fit and fine. They are doing so much for us, this is the least I could do.
Tell us about your coping mechanism personally and professionally.
As they say, there is something to learn from everything. My mantra for life is, the more you learn, the more you share and the more you grow. Keep acquiring knowledge! Also I strongly believe that we should always see things positively and that’s exactly what I practice.
How do you plan to reinvent how you work?
I plan to go back to the basics of Indian traditions, dig deeper and work more on the dietetics of ancient India. Not to forget, I’m also a great believer of simplicity. So, no matter what a recipe calls for, the building blocks and base of my recipes are always ‘simple.’
Are you active on social media? How are you advising your fans to stay indoors and what kind of recipes are you recommending they try at home?
Of course, I love the digital space and am quite active on social media with over 15 million followers across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. According to me, this is the best time for experimentation and use your creativity. People who are not at all into cooking are also trying their hands in the kitchen, which makes me happy. I advise my fans to stay indoors, spend time with their families and utilise it to do everything which they haven’t been able to do otherwise. Recipes which are easy to make, requires minimum ingredients and are healthy too, is what I recommend keeping the circumstances in mind.
Do you recommend any foods to increase immunity?
Ingredients which have been a part of our pantries since ages are great-immune boosters. I recommend people to consume citrus fruits like orange, sweet lime, grapefruit, etc. as much as they can. Another wonder ingredient is amla or Indian gooseberry, this works great in juices, pickles and chutneys alike. Besides these, you’ve got spices like turmeric, cinnamon, cardamoms, pepper, etc.
Are there any homemade drinks that the common man can create at home?
Yes, there are a lot of drinks which anyone can make at home. My favourite has always been the very gharelu kaadha to cure cough and cold which is made by boiling tulsi, ginger and haldi together. In case you need some sweetness you can add honey or jaggery to it.
For more simple drink recipes you can log onto my website sanjeevkapoor.com and YouTube channel Sanjeev Kapoor Khazana.
Being a celebrity chef how are you reaching out to your fan following to keep them entertained and keep their morale high during these times?
It’s always fun to interact with my fans on live sessions. Earlier, due to time constraints and my busy schedule, I wasn’t able to do it so often. But, now I am quite a regular at that. I’m also cooking live for my fans and followers, to keep their morale high, entertain them, help them learn and cook things for their families. This way people are able to enjoy by keeping their worries at bay, even if it’s for a short time. And I’m loving the response that I’m getting. People are engaged and literally cooking up a storm in their kitchens!
What do you recommend for households with children; do you have any plans to teach budding chefs how to cook to keep them engaged these days?
Why just now? I’ve always encouraged kids to cook along with their parents. This way, the child not just learns constantly, but everyone can spend quality time together, having fun and creating memories. In fact a lot of my live demos have always had children join the session and it’s great to interact with these young minds.
What about the supplies to enjoy great cooking at home? What are your recommendations so that people can stock up ingredients with a larger shelf life during these unpredictable times?
Cooking is not always about a lot of ingredients. It’s about how creative you can get with minimum ingredients available. In the present situation, we can stock up on whole grains, cereals, pulses, millets including rice, ragi, amaranth, etc. which not only stays longer but are also nutritious, healthy and help in creating a balanced diet.
Is giving a demo on social media the same as a live demo? What is your experience?
Both have their pros and cons. In a live demo the numbers are restricted to a few hundreds whereas on social media this number is much higher with higher interactivity. However in a live demo people can taste what you make and on social media you can’t. So both formats are fun in their own way.
Popular chef Floyd Cardoz was a victim of the deadly virus recently; please tell us about your interactions with him?
It is very unfortunate and sad what happened with him. He was a leading light, globally when it came to our Indian food. I remember visiting his restaurant Tabla years ago in New York. Truly, a big loss to the culinary world.
There is a lot of fear right now in India about consuming non vegetarian food even eggs for that matter, what is your opinion?
Food made in a hygienic and safe manner is best to eat be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
Tell us about your two most popular preparations which people can try these days while at home.
Two of my favourite recipes which people can try these days are Multigrain Khichdi and Dhansak. Both these dishes are wholesome and nutritious. You can find the recipes on my YouTube channel Sanjeev Kapoor Khazana.
How do you think chefs can create awareness amongst the common man about being home to stay safe when the lockdown is not being adhered to 100% by several people?
I think once a person understands the seriousness of the situation, he/she will refrain from going out themselves. Each person has to play their part and start with themselves. I, as a responsible citizen, along with my family are doing the best we can to create awareness on the same and staying home ourselves. If we do it, I’m sure, people will realize and do it too. We should know that whatever the government is doing, is for our own good. These efforts must be appreciated and we should do our bits by staying home for our own, as well as others safety.
Tell us your views about working from home and how viable it is for the chef community.
Working from home is a good change that’s needed once a while. Nothing compares to the comfort that you have while doing so. However for chefs it’s important that they look beyond the traditional ‘work’ that they do in restaurants or hotels and find ways as to how they can do something while at home. They can cook at home and supply food to the needy, experiment and explore ideas with minimal ingredients, take online cooking classes through social media; the opportunities are many. The idea is to always keep on sharing knowledge, no matter what the conditions are!
Celebrity Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, thanks for this interview