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THE FACE OF INDIAN CUISINE

(01/08/2012)

His extraordinary cooking skills have made him a household name, a true superstar of millions of homemakers. His ability to connect with the audience and give them amazing recipes in a simple manner led the television show “Khana Khazana” to continue for a non-stop record 17 years. Host-chef Sanjeev Kapoor is probably the most recognised face of Indian cuisine today. Under the brand name Sanjeev Kapoor’s Khazana, he also distributes a wide range of food products, including pickles, blended masalas, gourmet chutneys and 123 ready to cook mixes. In 2011, Kapoor became the first chef to launch his own TV channel “Food Food” and by the end of the year, he launched yet another restaurant in Delhi called “Sura Vie”.

Which is more difficult ~ cooking food in a kitchen or entrepreneurship?
Though I love cooking, it’s quite a difficult job. There are lots of technicalities involved in kitchen performance. But it is equally challenging to be an entrepreneur. If you stop concentrating, both can go wrong. If you add a little extra salt in food, you can lose the taste. If you don’t manage business well, you make it a loss-making venture.

But then how did a celebrated chef become a successful entrepreneur?
Each one of us is a born with some sense of business. As kids, we are taught to negotiate with things like academics, marks and subsequent rewards. How we utilise and develop that sense is up to us. I could handle kitchen as well as business. I really didn’t have to make special efforts.

How did this interest in food generate?
I always wanted to do something different. I had pursued hotel management and could have been a manager. Lekin kuch alag karna tha…jo padosi ne na kiya ho…dosto ne nahi kiya ho…I was a brilliant student. My banker father was interested in food. Since my mother is a vegetarian, my father would only cook non-veg stuff at our home. Cooking food was my brother’s hobby too. So, I was gradually inclined towards it.

How did Khana Khazana happen?
I was already working as an executive chef with a hotel when I was approached by Zee TV. It was also a new channel and they were planning a food related show. No chef was willing to do the show, which they had originally titled “Shriman Bawarchi”. I liked the medium and wanted to do something different. I even told them to change the title of the show to Khana Khazana. We held meetings, developed the kitchen and the content. It connected so well with the audience and became the longest running show on the television.

Connecting with audience is quite difficult, especially if you look at several flop food shows.

It is difficult to connect with the audience. Marketing and packaging are important. One must keep in mind what needs to be sold and in what manner. We have audiences from Nanded (Maharashtra) to New York at the same time. We have to present things in a way that both kind of audiences can watch and follow it. There were about 350 shows on food after Khana Khazana but no one could strike a chord like our show did.

How do you keep the balance amid all the tempting food?
I know what I eat and how much I eat. Moderation, restraint is the key. Kisi bhi cheez ke peeche nahi padna chahiye… I try to keep balance in my food. My daughter is an athlete. So, I go and run with her in the morning. My wife is very sincere though I am not that regular. But I know how to manage things. People tend to overeat and then regret extra flab. If you are looking at drastic results, take drastic efforts.

How’s your channel performing?
“Food Food” received more viewership than expected. We got 3-4 times more than well-established channels like Discovery, Travel and Living, NDTV Good Times. Last week, our Delhi GRPs were unprecedented at 27. I predict food is the next entertainment. People have realised it is big now.

Is the food industry rewarding?
If you are passionate and hard working, this industry is very rewarding. But if you cannot work hard, it’s better to keep away. I have had my share of struggle too. I remember I used to take the night bus in Delhi. I would leave home at seven sharp in morning and would come back by one at night. My parents would scold me and ask if I was staying in a ‘sarai’. You have to be physically and mentally strong to create your own space. And yes, there is a need for good chefs
everywhere.

Are chefs well paid in India? What’s your opinion?
In India, food industry is job biased. Chefs don’t have their own businesses like abroad. They are quite prosperous abroad. Now I think chefs are paid well in India too. Earlier, the scene was quite bad here.

Do you think recognition for chefs is the least in this country?
The government has not understood our contribution yet. They will give away hundreds of Padmashris to doctors who would check PM’s heart or to cricketers or film stars. But there is nothing for chefs. Restaurant industry by itself, organised or unorganised in India, is worth Rs 45,000 crore. Look at the number of opportunities and employment that are being generated in our industry. Society at large is giving respect to chefs.

Have you conveyed your thoughts to government?
Yes, I have done so but not too much. There is a sense of callousness. It’s been two days that I sent the request to meet the tourism minister here in Delhi but I didn’t get any response. I am flying back to Mumbai tomorrow.

What’s next?
I want to keep doing different things. After launching the channel, I have raised the bar for other chefs since I was the first chef in the world to have launched his own channel. My dream is to popularise Indian food abroad. Our cuisine should be recognised as the No. 1 food in the world. 

Source: Karan Bhardwaj Blog

MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.

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