Dressed in a pair of simple khakhis, a full sleeve black t-shirt and a traditional Assamese jacket with motifs, celebrity chef Vikas Khanna looked dapper and suave. And when he flashed his disarming smile, he charmed the crowds even more. The restaurateur, author, philanthropist, Michelin star chef and nutrition ambassador of Smile Foundation was in town recently at Phoenix MarketCity, Pune, Vimanagar. Spreading joy and cheer for the festive season, Vikas turned Santa for the ‘Phoenix Turns Santa’ initiative, an online campaign by the retail establishment that aims to donate funds to the NGO based on the impressions generated on social media during the Christmas week. He also distributed wonderful gifts and goodies to the foundation’s children.
When we chatted him up, we found that the 46-year-old has a great sense of humour too, Here, he tells us why he keeps coming back to India and how writing books helps him tell stories of Indian cuisine, traditions and culture.
Talking about his association with the foundation, the chef who was named ‘The Sexiest Man Alive’ by People Magazine in 2011, says, “Smile Foundation gives me the reason to come back to India again and again. It is like the gravity that attracts me towards India, that too for a noble cause. Brainstorming ideas of uplifting them, thinking of new ways of fundraising and adding value, and creating new nutritional and educational programme for children was extremely important for me and became very much a part of what I have been doing,” says Vikas who has been associated with Smile Foundation over seven years now.
“My guilt of leaving my home in India, leads me to think about it so much. I want to connect and do as much as I can. I want to be a part of children’s lives while they are growing up,” he adds.
Role of literature
“Mujhe toh pata bhi nahi tha chef hota kya hai. Mujhe toh bas dukaan kholni thi bhaturon ki, but today 70 per cent children want to become chefs without feeling shy or embarrassed unlike me who was ashamed to tell people that I wanted to be a cook,” says Vikas.
He feels that literature has a huge role to play in bringing about this transformation. Vikas, who has written his 29th book titled Poeatry, says, “Literature is changing a lot of things. By reading any written piece, it gives hope and courage to many and becomes an instrument to change someone’s life. I know that after I am long gone, my literature will certainly inspire a child who loves to cook. Restaurants will come and go but literature will always remain in everyone’s memory. Literature helps me tell the story of Indian cuisine, traditions and culture to people in other parts of the world.”
The MasterChef India judge also unveiled the cover of his book Poeatry, which contains 100 poems related to food, cooking, life and not recipes. “Each piece of poetry is an ode to farms, kitchens and cooking traditions across the globe. It is a poetic expression that tells readers about the journey of any ingredient, right from its sowing to being served on a plate. Poeatry has been designed as a poetic journey that transports the reader into a ‘bowl of culinary experiences’. I believe that it takes a million hands to feed one child and this is what is expressed in the book,” explains Vikas.