At a time when not many men were seen donning the apron and cooking, he came and changed kitchen rules. Padmashree awardee Sanjeev Kapoor, who many would remember as the ever smiling chef with dimples on TV show Khana Khazana, still continues to wow everyone. Later, he went on to start his own channel Food Food and has authored several cookbooks too. He was recently in Pune to launch Wonderchef’s exclusive brand outlet in the city at Phoenix MarketCity, Viman Nagar, and also judge a contest ‘Wonderchef Cook For Me with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’ where he chose the best dish among 300 participants.
When asked how he picked the winner, Sanjeev promptly replied, “Khana jo hai, woh pyaar se banta hai. Khana do tarah ka hota hai — restaurant mein vyapar hota hai aur yeh pyaar ka khana hai. Jisme sabse zyada pyaar hoga, wahi dish best hogi. Anything cooked with love touches my heart.”
In the past few years, Indian food has been accepted well globally and we are seeing more and more Indian chefs taking the effort to create awareness about the cuisine. Commenting on the same, Sanjeev, who runs a chain of restaurants called The Yellow Chilli, says, “Indian cuisine is definitely growing popular and also getting the recognition it deserves. Earlier, Indian food wasn’t looked at with a lot of respect but now it has become a matter of great pride.”
Local and regional cuisines have also become a part of mainstream gastronomy and Sanjeev feels that it is a progressive thing. “It such a great thing that regional cuisines are getting prominence and so many restaurants dedicated to regional food are coming up. Through our television show and digital platforms, which are mostly focussed towards youth, we always try to create awareness of regional and local food. Earlier, people were ashamed of the Indian-ness but now it has turned into pride,” he adds.
He also believes that travelling teaches you a lot about food. One of the best ways to get to know a place is through food. It is a crucial part of the culture of that place.
Today, a lot of youngsters are taking great interest in cooking. “It is great to see that the number of both home chefs and young chefs is growing. For instance, Symbiosis School of Culinary Arts in Pune is getting a great response. Parents too are encouraging their children to pursue a career in cooking, which was not the case two decades ago. I want the younger generation to come forward and pursue a career in cooking and take Indian food to the next level. Not a single Indian restaurant is among the top 20 in the world and this needs to change, we are working towards it. The scenario will change when more and more young people embrace cooking,” he quips.
Despite Indian kitchens being the domain of women, we do not see many women chefs coming to the fore. However, Sanjeev says the scenario is changing. “Many women chefs are entering the industry. Some of them are opening their own businesses too. Through Wonderchef, we are also trying to empower homemakers and women homechefs by offering a range of cookware and cooking equipment which are specially made for professionals and will help them start/run their business. You’ll see more and more women taking up cooking as a career in the future.”
Sanjeev, who has been a judge on MasterChef India, has been winning hearts with his mouth-watering delicacies for more than two decades. Where does he seek his inspiration from? He answers, “Everyday, when I wake up I seek inspiration from my surroundings — it could be the colours of the balloons at a store like the ones here (pointing towards the decoration), the colour of the sky, the smell of barbequed street food and so on.”