Sanjeev Kapoor, the master chef

One of the top torchbearers of Indian cuisine, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor taught the country how to cook. He looks back on his journey till date in a conversation with A Varsha Rao

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

India’s most popular chef, Sanjeev Kapoor never set out to become a man of the kitchen. He was, in fact, preparing to be an architect. But fate had other plans for him and he found himself applying for a hotel management course in Delhi. “The rest, as they say, is history,” chuckles Sanjeev Kapoor. From being the country’s favourite television chef to a restaurant conglomerate, Sanjeev Kapoor has created the perfect recipe for a successful life. He recently collaborated with Daawat for a show called ‘The Biryani Journey’, wherein he travelled to four cities across India to discover the extravagant and unique taste of biryani in each city. Here, he talks about the show and his journey till date:

Tell us about the show, ‘The Biryani Journey’. 

All of us love biryani, but not all of us know as much about it. That is why I want my viewers to join me on The Biryani Journey to understand the rich flavours, exclusivity, and intricacies of the ingredients that go into making some of the most popular biryanis of India. We went to Lucknow, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Malabar to uncover the secrets that make each one of these biryanis masterpieces in their own right. You will get to a lot of behind-the-scenes action, love and care that go into making these all-time favourite classics, which will make you appreciate your next biryani a lot more.

What’s your favourite biryani and why?

My favourite biryani totally depends upon my mood and thankfully there is a type of biryani for literally any mood and palate. Amongst the varied types, two of my all-time favourites are the light, flavourful and fragrant Lucknowi biryani, and the robust, spicy Hyderabadi-style kachchi gosht ki biryani — depending on what I am craving at that given point. It would be impossible for me to pick one, it was really tough enough narrowing down to these two.

Biryani is a time-consuming affair. Is there a shortcut method of making it in our home kitchen?

For years, making a perfect biryani has been a medium of expression for chefs and culinary maestros because biryani-making is no less than an art. Of course, there are shortcuts to making a biryani, but if you want to make a dish as intricate and rewarding as a biryani, you must go the whole mile. The best things in life take time and biryani is definitely one of them.

What do you think about the food scene in India today?

There is no denying that the food scene in India and the world is on an all-time high, making it a very exciting space to be in. There are some great concepts and food that is being put out. Technology has made the world so much smaller. It’s a lot easier to directly communicate and share your knowledge with a larger audience, which has helped the global food scene grow at a very fast pace. In India, too, you can see so many new innovations in food — whether it is regional food, cloud kitchens, food delivery apps or health and lifestyle trends like vegan and keto. It’s a very dynamic space with new avenues opening up each day; you’ve just got to keep your eyes and mind open.

People are embracing regional Indian cuisines like never before today, what do you have to say about that?

I’ve had a long-standing dream to give traditional Indian food the recognition it deserves and I couldn’t be happier about people discovering the magic of our regional cuisine. The years gone by have made people realise traditional Indian cuisine is healthy, scientific, balanced, and not to forget, delicious. There’s so much diversity and brilliance in our cuisine and just so little we know about it. The new breed of chefs is doing a great job in exploring local, lesser-known food from across the country and bringing it to the masses, but there is a still a long way to go, and so much more to discover. So, it’s safe to say that regional Indian food is going to be a raging trend for a while.

What advice would you like to give to aspiring chefs?

Working in a professional kitchen is not easy, but extremely satisfying if you love cooking. Besides that, there are many new avenues opening up in the food industry, so explore what’s best for you. You will have a challenge thrown at you almost every single day and the best way to tide through them is with hard work and a smile on your face. Follow your dream and believe in yourself — the world is your oyster! Also, never stop being a student — the more you learn, the more you share, and the more you grow.

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