Ranveer Brar: Food for the soul

Celebrity chef Ranveer Brar is back on TV with fascinating food folklore and inimitable charm. Jisha Krishnan chats with the Lucknow lad about emotions, science, inspiration, and more...

Ranveer Brar

His Instagram profile reads ‘Chef @ heart, Chef @ soul, author, TV show host, MasterChef India judge, Foodsufi’. The philosophy behind food is what fascinates him the most. “I love to explore not just the tangible stuff you see on the plate, but also the intangible aspects that make a dish what it is,” says Chef Ranveer Brar, who’s back with season 2 of EPIC Channel’s Raja Rasoi aur Anokha Andaaz.

From becoming the youngest executive chef at a five-star hotel to hosting popular cooking shows on television and writing insightful culinary books, Chef Ranveer has done it all! The best thing, he confides, is the opportunity to travel, explore new cuisines and culture, meet new people and bond over food. “I am always keen to learn more about and around food, to expand my culinary repertoire,” avers the advocate for making health and nutrition a basic aspect of food.

Excerpts from an interaction with the millet-loving chef, who prefers cooking with tough grains and tough cuts of meat:

What’s the most exciting thing about season 2?

The ability to take a break from everything and just focus on research and cooking. The last season was predominantly shot in Goa and this season was shot in Alibaug (Maharashtra). We travelled to various farms, went fishing, ferrying, cycling…

Did you discover any surprising food folklore?

Quite a bit actually! For instance, Mirza Ghalib (the legendary poet) was a gin drinker; he loved a brand called Old Tom, which is available even today. Also, Rabindranath Tagore was a great foodie; he loved kebabs ­— some offbeat ones, too. It’s said that he often got obsessed with certain ingredients for a stretch of time and used them in different forms across soups, starters, main course and so on.

What makes ‘dorra kebab’ your signature dish?

Dorra kebab is special for me because of the different layers and spices that make it what it is. Plus, the intricacy of tying the silken thread around it and its unique texture.

Food texture or appearance – what’s more important?

In food, the texture is more important as it is the true vehicle of flavour delivery. When we eat through a portion, the different layers reveal the different flavours helping us savour the dish better.

What does fusion food mean to you?

Fusion food doesn’t hold much fascination for me. I feel that you can only work with different cuisines when you have experienced them in their native form. More than experimenting, for me, it’s about inspiration and respect for varied cuisines.

Why is it important to understand the science behind food?

When you understand the science behind food, you’ll be able to treat it better. It allows you to futuristically look into a dish, deconstruct it and translate your vision of a dish into reality. At the end of the day, cooking is a scientific process where you apply heat to a bunch of ingredients through a systematic process to transform them into a complete dish.

Have you always loved millets?

As a kid, I grew up with grains like jowar, bajra and other indigenous varieties. Gradually, over the years, we realised how beneficial they are for our health. We can easily incorporate them in our day-to-day cooking. For example, we can add millet flour to the wheat flour used at home. There are also easy khichdi, pulao and snack recipes that work wonderfully with millets.

What’s the biggest cooking myth?

That you need a lot of knowledge and skills to cook. In reality, you need 50% heart and faith plus 50% knowledge and skills to cook. I believe that your feelings and emotions get translated into your dish, giving it its true flavour.

Do men make better chefs than women?

Women definitely make better chefs than men because they cook with their heart.

What’s the food that makes you smile?

Halwa makes me smile; it reminds me of the food served in langars and of the typical Punjabi breakfast comprising halwa-puri that Biji used to make. Childhood memories of food play an important role because they get hardwired into our DNA. The flavours, textures, aroma of food will always invoke priceless memories and re-establish our connection with food every time.

Any cooking tips?

If it grows together, it goes together. So, essentially, if a set of main ingredients grow in the same or similar topography, they work well together for a dish. If it is tough, it is tasty. The tougher grains, tougher cuts of meat and so on need longer cooking time, but they also take on more flavours and are more satisfying in terms of complex flavours. Never shorten the cooking time; give food the time it needs.

 

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