Royalty on the app
Chef and TV host Kunal Kapur talks about TVF’s Royal Palate, how little is known about royal foods of India, and why he is making the shift to the OTT platform
Chef Kunal Kapur is taking digital viewers on a culinary sojourn by giving them a peek into the royal cuisines of India. The series titled Royal Palate has been produced by The Viral Fever (TVF) in association with Behrouz Biryani, and has been streaming on TVF Play and The Timeliners every Thursday. Besides Kunal, it also features influencers and celebs like VJ Benafsha Soonawalla, Ahsaas Channa, Chef Sara Rodd, Barkha Singh, Melvin Louis and others.
The celebrity chef says that the seven episode series captures the royal cuisines of certain regions of the country including Jaipur, Rampur, Lucknow, Kolkata and Kochi. “We are not looking at the entire cuisine but focusing on a particular dish of that region. We also visited the royal families to understand their perspective and found different versions of the dish. The series is very holistic and a rich connect between the royalty and the common man,” he said during the trailer launch of the series in Mumbai, last week, adding that at the end, they learnt a lot about the community, region and history of the food.
Kunal, who has hosted food-based shows on pickles, curries and thalis in the past, said that he was surprised by the fact that so little is known about the food of the royal families. “When you go to Lucknow, you realise that there is Ghutwa Kebab, which is the big daddy of Kakori and Galouti Kebab. Ghutwa Kebab was first introduced and then maybe Kakori and Galouti followed. At Rampur, we discovered different types of halwas. There were people making halwa from grass, fish, meat and neem too. We got to know the reason behind making these halwas. In Kochi, we had the royal thali and found out about the different items served in the thali and why is it served and how it is eaten,” said Kunal sharing anecdotes from the show. He was quick to mention that royal cuisines differ from region to region. “No food is the same at two places,” he quipped.
Ask the chef what is it about royal cuisines that excites him and he replies, “There are so many factors — the stories behind the cuisines, the genesis of the dishes, how the royal kitchen utilised a particular ingredient and converted it into a feast for the entire family and so on. If you explore further, you will find that the royal food is not just influenced from in and around but across the world.”
Sharing an example, Kunal said, “In case of Lucknowi Galawat Kebab, we got to know that at a certain point in time, French troops were stationed in Awadh training the Nawab’s army to fight the British. The troops were there for a long time and people started to learn to make French food because they had to cook for them. That influenced the culinary techniques of that region.”
The chef, who is known for judging MasterChef India, says that there are misconceptions about royal cuisines. “I too had similar ideas. We think it will have more oil or ghee because it’s royal. Or if we put more pista or badam, it will become royal but that’s not the case. Like all cuisines, there is a certain reasoning behind royal food. I got to know that once upon a time, veds used to head the royal kitchen. They would oversee the ingredients, the amounts used while cooking because these ingredients were used as medicines. In fact, the ved, the doctor and the chef were the same,” he explained.
Being a celebrity chef and host of cookery shows, Kunal has visited and tasted food from different regions. When we asked him how have different cultures influenced him as a chef he replied, “Till the time, I was in my kitchen it was all about cooking my food right. With television, your horizons broaden and you start questioning. It makes you wonder: ‘Is cooking the recipe right the only thing or one has to have the hunger to find the stories behind those recipes? And if you have the hunger, are you ready to step out and research? I am more than happy to both cook and step out, research and come back and cook again.”
Though Kunal’s cooking videos on Facebook are quite popular Royal Palate is his first attempt as a cookery show host on the OTT platform. The shift, he says, is because he wants to connect with the young viewers. “TV is still very big in India and I am humbled by the medium. The app is something that everyone follows, especially youngsters. The avenue just opens up and there is a lot of cutting edge competition and we therefore see a lot of different types of shows,” he concluded.