RANVEER BRAR, ONE OF THE MOST CELEBRATED CHEFS IN INDIA SPEAKS ABOUT KEEPING THE MORALE HIGH DURING THESE TOUGH TIMES
Celebrity Chef Ranveer Brar
Television celebrity, Masterchef India judge, author, restaurateur, food film producer and benefactor, chef Ranveer Brar is one of the most celebrated chefs in the country.
He has set up restaurants in India (including a heritage hotel, Alila Fort Bishangarh) and abroad and curated the menu of many more (including cruise kitchens aboard Royal Caribbean).
His popularity on television is matched by his tremendous fan following on social media as well.
Getting the basics right and revering the kitchen as an artist would his/her studio, are mantras he lives by and propagates to others as well. He also pioneered the first ever Twitter video show called Ranveer On The Road, covering new destinations each season and exploring their cuisines and cultures. For someone who propounds the theory of cuisine being an extension of culture, he strongly upholds the belief of travel making a good chef better.
An avid photographer with a keen eye for details, his love of art flows into his food styling and photographs as well. With a bestseller in his kitty, a popular host and judge on television and an artist both in and out of the kitchen, chef Brar calls himself a food-sufi on a constant culinary quest.
How has the virus outbreak affected your work?
Thanks to the Digital era, connecting with people, professionally and/or socially is not much of a problem, with so many apps on hand. What I do miss however, is actually meeting people, travelling and of course shooting new recipes for my Youtube channel as the studio is in lockdown for now.
Tell us about your coping mechanism personally and professionally.
I’ve simply re-adjusted the priorities and work style. Work still goes on via virtual connects and reaching out to people with different content. But I also see this time as a blessing. As someone who is out of Mumbai at least 80% of the year, I am now getting to spend time with family, Ishaan especially is thrilled! It’s also giving me time to catch up and realign with myself.
How do you plan to reinvent how you work?
I feel this pandemic and resultant slowdown has shown us all that it’s OK not to be on the hamster wheel 24/7/365. It’s OK to take timeout for yourself and your loved ones. It’s OK to not give in to consumerism but only hold on what we really need. In that aspect, I am switching off my phone a couple of hours every day and re reading old books with a new mature perspective.
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?
We are doing an RBLockdownCookbook series on my social media, which started since the 21 days lockdown was announced. It features a simple recipe every day, that people can make with what’s available. We have also introduced 2 new Food mats on my App – Immunity Boosters and Fast Food and soon another for using what’s in the pantry, all these feature lots of relevant recipes from my repertoire for each category.
Do you recommend any foods to increase immunity?
Vitamin C intake is important as much for the season as the current situation. It’s a good idea to add lemon and amla to your daily routine which are fairly easily available and excellent sources of the vitamin along with other benefits. Plenty of water and healthy fluid intake is a must. With lifestyle tad more sedentary at present due to lack of much physical movement and gyms being closed, go slow on carbs and heavy foods. With the rise in temperature, it’s also advisable to avoid any inflammatory foods at this time, such as sugar, oily and heavy foods which can clog up the immune system and leave us feeling lethargic too.
Are there any homemade drinks that the common man can create at home?
Fresh lemon or amla juice/sherbet is an easy option. One can also make simple detox drinks using cucumber and any citrus fruit or vegetables too. Smoothies/Lassi with fruits, cereals and veggies, instead of a heavy breakfast is a good option as they are wholesome and can be made with simple ingredients at home. They are also great for those in-between hunger pangs, especially for kids.
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?
This is a time when social media is at its busiest, with people at home, especially children, lot of content is being consumed. Using this responsibly is very important, specifically data consumption as it’s a finite source and there are people working from home who need it more. I do regular lives (reduced from my daily live schedule) on my Instagram and connect with people and my buddies to stay in touch.
The live sessions have also featured musicians, actors and other artists who hop on to the live and tell us all how they are keeping themselves busy. There was this under-19 cricketer who showed us how he was continuing his practice at home. We also did super fun live cooking sessions with Shankar Mahadevan, Ritwik Dhanjani and Nakuul Mehta.
In addition, I share positive news on my stories everyday with the hashtag #SochPositiveKarona to remind people of the good that still exists in the world amidst all the fake and hate news doing the rounds. Plus, highlighting one charity each day that people can reach out to and donate.
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?
It’s interesting because ever since the lockdown started people have sent in so many requests for quick recipes and live cooking sessions which is very encouraging. Most of these requests are for children, of course. We did a live session on a Facebook page in collaboration with Kelloggs India where we discussed this and cooked 2 simple recipes. I also featured on my page a quick Chapati-pizza recipe that kids will love, in collaboration with a healthcare brand. Plus, the lockdown cookbook series which showcases a quick and minimal, yet healthy recipe every day, in addition to my regular recipe videos (shot before social-distancing days).
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?
While I request people to not stock up, as shops are open as per the state govt directive. We just need to ensure we have enough supplies of a basic cereal-pulse combination, which is the most basic combo for the essential nutrition that our body needs. For instance, Rice and lentils, Wheat flour and lentils and so on that take care of the macro nutrient requirements.
I also recommend keeping millets handy, they have longer shelf-life and have a high concentration of micronutrients. Also, Vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables as also those with high water & fibre content. It’s also a good idea to keep lentil flours on hand and/or unpolished lentils with husk intact.
Is giving a demo on social media the same as a live demo? What is your experience?
The purpose is the same for both, to reach out and share knowledge. What I do miss about live demos is the direct connect with audience, the face-to-face interactions and Q&A which is a bit difficult to monitor during a virtual demo when you are cooking. But on the plus side, virtual platforms cut through geographical limitations and have a larger reach. I get to interact with far bigger number of people at a given time.
Popular chef Floyd Cardoz was a victim of the deadly virus recently; please tell us about your interactions with him?
When I was in the US, chef Floyd Cardoz was nothing less than a Godfather of modern Indian cuisine in the US. Tabla was like a pilgrimage for any aspiring chef. I remember… and this was around 2004, we used to visit Tabla just to try our luck to chat with chef for a few moments. This also makes the threat of #covid_19 so much more real, when you lose somebody you looked upto.
There is a lot of fear right now in India about consuming non vegetarian food even eggs for that matter, what is your opinion?
I am against all ill-informed decisions and rumours, I always suggest people going to the WHO website to verify the information before they make their decision. In my mind, any food is innocent till proven guilty because the true nature and purpose of food is nourishment and not disease.
Tell us about your two most popular preparations which people can try these days while at home.
One quick recipe that’s I recently featured in my Lockdown series is a Beetroot Smoothie. It just needs Boiled beetroot, yogurt and honey. Another dish that’s quick and healthy is millet dosa that can be made with the leftover Vrat ke chawal or the typical millets that people would have bought recently for Navratri.
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 we are chefs later and good citizens first and being good citizens we can do our bit by adhering a 100 percent to the lockdown, sharing our knowledge of resourceful cooking and zero wastage cooking and inspiring people with our relationship to food and our recipes. Food is the best connect at the end of the day according to me 😊.
Tell us your views about working from home and how viable it is for the chef community.
For chefs its difficult working from home as ours is a skill based job, yet it’s important that we stay in and cook in, start appreciating home cooking and simple food. As chefs we sometimes get carried away towards restaurant style / royal food and this is an opportunity to start appreciating our simple home cooking that uses resources economically, yet has the most amazing food once again.
by Jyoti Balani