Mega Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s Biography – A short interview with the khana khazana
tv host & moments from his journey towards success.
About Celebrity Chef Sanjeev Kapoor:
This is an exclusive interview of Sanjeev Kapoor- the biggest TV chef in the world.
Sanjeev started in the hospitality industry in 1984 with a Diploma in Hotel Management
from the Institute of Hotel Management (IHM) Pusa, Catering Technology & Applied
Nutrition. He started his career in the Indian Tourism Development Corporation under
their kitchen management scheme. After working in many hotels, he became the Executive
Chef of the Centaur Hotel in Mumbai. He is the Star of the hit Indian TV show, "Khana
Khazana", Sanjeev has hosted the longest running cooking show in Asia, airing in
120 countries and accumulating more than 500 million viewers in the 18 years it
has been broadcast. Also an entrepreneur, his 36 books have sold and estimated 10
million copies around the world, his website receives 25 millions hits a month and
he has his own 24 hour TV Channel. Deemed as "the most celebrated face of Indian
cuisine", Sanjeev has gained an astonishing track record in the industry and was
also selected as one of the top five Celebrity Chefs in the world along with Gordon
Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal and Wolf Gang Puck by CNN’s Richard Quest.
In this interview, we talk about what brought Sanjeev to Indian food, his success
in his career and the various aspects of Indian cuisine.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your career and what brought
you to Indian food?
As an Indian and a professional chef I have been nurturing the dream of making Indian
cuisine the number one in the world. My cookery shows, my food channel, my books,
my website all are created with the aim to glorify the richness of our food culture
and to keep alive the traditions of the Indian kitchen. I started off as kitchen
trainee with ITDC in 1984 and then moved out and up into various organizations.
I had long stint as Executive Chef with Hotel Centaur in Mumbai. At this point my
programme Khana Khazana was created and evolved and took off! This cookery show
has had the distinction of being aired nonstop for more than 17 years. I use the
platform of TV to put forth my passion for Indian recipes.
Q: What are the key factors in making Indian food "authentic"?
The description of ‘authentic’ is subjective. For me arriving at the most acceptable
taste for the masses is authentic. Then that is documented.
Q: How has your upbringing and your education at the Institute
of Hotel Management influence your cooking style?
Knowledge is important but the real power lies in knowledge applied! When I was
growing up I saw my dad cook delicious food for the family. I started venturing
into our kitchen when I was just ten years old and those formative years gave me
the belief that men can cook! My formal education has been able to train my mind
to accept that hotel management and catering is hard work but doable! Because we
were taught about ingredients, cooking techniques, etc I have always been confident
about playing around with flavours and creating something new.
Q: What do you think have been the main reasons for the long-term
success of Khana Khazana?
I simply gave my audience what they wanted! Keeping my finger on the pulse of the
market paid off. I have been advocating that home food is best and there should
not be any fear in cooking for the family. My teaching style has been well loved
and also the fact that I have been cooking food that is not daunting to the audience.
Q: What is the most difficult part about being a celebrity
It is an answer that I have never given. Seriously though, the tough part is that
you are under constant pressure. You are under a scanner to perform.
Q: Do you therefore deliberately steer yourself to be cool,
No, I think it comes to me naturally. The smile you see on my face on television
is something that I normally go about with. In our work, you can’t act. I don’t
work with a script, and I let my food speak. I behave in the normal way. If I were
acting or feigning, the show would last for a couple of years. But Khana Khazana,
now 10 years on, is the longest running show, in all categories, in India.
Q: By going unprepared for the show, isn’t there a chance
of you repeating what you might have already done?
Not at all. I must say I have a very good memory. It is a selective memory. There
are certain things that I may forget very soon. As a child, as a student, I was
in the brilliant category thanks to my memory. That helps in every field. When you
go unprepared, you have to say things from the repertoire you have.
Considering that you were a brilliant student, and you entered the industry at a
time when hotel management was not much respected, what prompted you to try out
in this field?
I have always had an attitude of taking a different path from others. If everyone
goes to the right, I would choose the left.
Q: Has that put you into trouble?
No, I have always benefited from it. I am not comfortable doing what everyone else
is doing. I am not happy following the path set by others. I believe in making one,
leading, and letting others follow the path. I am an Aries…
Q: You have been doing extensive research in Indian cuisine.
What have been your most important findings?
We all think that the ancient Indians were more vegetarian in nature, and that is
what India is. No. The kind of non-veg they were eating, if we talk of that now,
we have to be very careful because it may cause a national stir.
Q: How do you actually go about with the research?
We knew someone who was doing a lot of research on ancient India but not on food.
We collaborated with him. We needed to collect information to start with. We started
with stored information wherever in India. It could be in libraries, books or written
manuscripts or articles, or the people. We first decided to make a list of what
is there, and we have compiled a bibliography — the first of its kind in India.
Out of that we selected some manuscripts, where we believed the information might
be relevant. We collated it, and then comes the most difficult and time-consuming
part of translating the information. Most of them are in a Sanskrit or Prakrit.
Q: How can food & cuisine contribute to factors such as women’s
empowerment, health, and surrounding issues?
All these are co-related. Food makes or mars health for all. A lady who cooks for
the family is actually taking charge of their overall health and well being. And
a healthy family is an important unit that makes up for a healthy society. This
is women empowerment isn’t it? Another aspect is that women who have taken up food
and catering as business ventures: be it home based or a large commercial one. Any
business venture is empowerment. I have recently launched brand Wonder chef which
is enabling Indian women to empower themselves by starting their own business.
Q: What have been the key drivers for the success of your
My passion for making Indian cuisine the number one in the world is the main driving
force. Because my goal is so clear, my path toward it is marked out…whatever hurdles
come my way are then taken care of.
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