Desi at heart, global in spirit

In conversation with Shilpi Madan, Chef Ranveer Brar discusses his culinary philosophy, his food favourites, and more...

Ranveer Brar

Over 14 brand endorsements; 200,000 followers on his YouTube channel; 306 k followers on Instagram: Chef Ranveer Brar has emerged as the coolest Indian Chef on the block, netting in global recognition and popularity through his innumerable travel shows as he uncovers the uncharted gourmet turf, writes cookbooks, wins awards, shapes menus in des and pardes apart from setting up restaurants, and more. Beat that.

“You need to be passive-aggressive to be a successful chef. You need to have the aggression that no one can see,” shares Ranveer as we settle down to chat over cups of hot green tea. He has shed weight, and wears an air of calm, having just returned from a challenging trek in the Himalayas where he shot for a food show. “The terrain challenges you,” he confesses. “But it has been the most beautiful, humbling experience of my entire life. Do you know people up there in the mountains survive on a modest intake of chai, butter, sattu... It is delicious, basic and just so fulfilling. Food needs to be simple and nourishing but sometimes, as chefs, we tend to overcomplicate things and this essence gets lost in the process,” he says honestly, having brought back barley jau to experiment with in the kitchen.

“I study the ingredients I work with, understand why cultures used it the way they did, before coming up with my own renditions.” Much like he brought home the “best buckwheat in the world” from Turtuk, near the Indo-Pakistan border. Call it serendipity but he discovered the grain while delving into the kitchens of the locals as he shot for yet another series. “Green apricot was also a treasured find here,” he smiles.

His Insta bio labels him as a ‘FoodSufi’ and Sufi food served up with Sufi music is what he came up with when he visited the famous poet Rumi’s tomb in Turkey. “This is the kind of stuff I like to do. I began to paint, sculpt, write before I started to cook and everything pours itself into my creative canvas once I am in the kitchen,” he shares. Ranveer’s appeal lies in his honesty. His show Rasoi ki Jung Mummyon ke Sung was a superb hit owing to his able interaction with ordinary mothers, as he sieved their age-old recipes to share with the viewers. A simple, run-on show. Of course, he is a seasoned hand at whipping up mean successes in the kitchen on the telly. Case in point, his countless popular telly shows earlier in Breakfast Xpress, The Great Indian Rasoi, Thank God It’s Fryday, Health Bhi Taste Bhi, Ranveer’s Cafe... and Season 4 of MasterChef India where he came on board as a judge with his peers Vikas Khanna and Sanjeev Kapoor.

“Food is a lens, my window to the world. Agriculture is the root of all cultures. Remember, the first song was the celebration of the joy of harvest,” says Ranveer, who is known for his intriguing detailing of lesser-known facts about ingredients on his social media posts. What anchors him? “My family and friends. For instance, my relationship with my father will always be the same, wherever I am in the world and whatever I am doing. Also, people accept you for who you are. That is what I have discovered through the interactivity of the web as a medium. That makes you shrug off all mental constructs. That is the first step that enables you to keep the fluff out,” he says with his warm, signature smile.

Prod him about gourmet trends and he responds instantly, “I live in a world where you cook only what is grown around you. That takes care of sustenance, responsible gourmet and the carbon footprint. It is all about celebrating your culture through food. As far as gourmet trends are concerned, I do not believe in creating heroes out of ingredients. I am against singular marketing, as then the others suffer. For instance, while championing the alphonso and the dussehri, we have ignored hundreds of other local variants in mangoes, that have subsequently been done away in orchards as they do not move that well in the market. What a colossal loss,” he rues.

The cause is the hero, believes Ranveer and if vegetarianism is your cause, he has mock meat options in jackfruit, yam, chakki ki sabzi for bringing in that meaty texture on your plate. What’s next for the creative soul? “A definitive, authoritative guide to the culinary calypso in Lucknow,” he says, the fondness for the city he grew up in, shining in his eyes. “I owe it to the city.”

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