Men can’t cook: Kunal KapurSmriti Saxena
The first time I met him, I thought to myself: what a gentleman!Man of few words with a million dollar smile, who has been reaping success and is yet so simple and nice.
At that moment I never thought that Travel Samosa will ever happen and one day I will be profiling him for a cover story.
One of the most talked about chefs of Masterchef India series, KunalKapur, the Chef extraordinaire, is truly the most celebrated faces of Indian cuisine. He has not only taken foodto a different level but he is an idol for many young chefs who aspire to be like him.
We tried our best to coordinate on our own but it was not getting anywhere. At times he would be travelling and at times I would have commitments. I would crib all about the coordination hassle to Shiba over breakfast. She like her brother would smile beautifully and would justify his busy schedule with a simple explanation. Then finally, like a Bollywood film sequence, Kunalintroduced Nidhi Vermaand I am glad that she stepped in to rescue.
So, finally I am happy that Kunal Kapur, the executive sous chef of Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon who has many laurels to his credit took time from his busy schedule to share a few of his secrets from life.
Did you always know that you would be a chef or did you find you fell into it?
I never really knew as a teenager what I want to do, though my family pretty much wanted me to be a banker. I was always bad with numbers and just so that Idon’t get into banking i decided to get into hotel management without thinking much. Once there I took immediate fancy to cooking as it was the most creative subject. i knew by the second year of college I wanted to be a chef.
Now being a successful chef, do you feel that you were influenced by your mother’s cooking?
My mom cooked for the army at home as I grew up living in a joint family, but it was watching my grandfather, dad, and uncle cooking every Sunday. I was quite ok with men cooking in the kitchen. Often my father would make me sit on an upturned ghee canister and allow me to stir while he cooked. Those were my very first lessons on cooking.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
I am a person who is deep rooted with flavours and old techniques of cooking. I am sound with bringing out the best flavours in any dish. And this mixed with extensive travelling that I do. I keep creating signature with classics as well as modern Indian food. Many a times the inspirations for my dishes are from my childhood memories of watching my family cook.
Tell us about your book ‘a Chef in Every Home’ and what inspired you to write this book or choose this theme? Is there another publication you plan to do?
A chef in every home is a book that is an offshoot of my participation in MasterchefIndia as a judge. I was in awe of the good food and creative ideas that came from home cooks on the show. Seriously that was an eye opener for the otherwise arrogant chef I was. I had to do a book to pay tributes to home cooking. This book is about international food that anyone can cook in a humble Indian home kitchen.
My second book is called Men can’t Cook.
Which is your “signature dish” or a favourite recipe? It could be from the book or one from the shows, the one you are most proud of, or a recent one that no one knows about.
Well it’s a kebab actually which is called Haleem Kebab. It is not a classic but my invention and what excites me about this dish everytime I cook it is that half of it is deep rooted in highbred whereas the other half is an inspiration from my travel to Europe.
What are your essential ingredients, the things you couldn’t live without?
Defintely my spice box.
People are talking these days a lot about molecular cuisine. Do you see it becoming soon as selling point for the hospitality industry? Do you plan to introduce it in one of the restaurants?
It is very easy to go wrong or wrongly interpret molecular cuisine. For some time I was resisting it but now I am introducing it in my brand new restaurant Patiala in Dubai.
Do you feel that there is a difference in being a chef and TV chef?
Well for once they both work towards each other.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
When you begin keep your head down, ask a lot of questions, challenge everything and just learn as much before you take the big leap.