He has an enviable following on social media, he is the face of many innovative cooking shows and boasts of a repertoire that usually takes years to build. Chef Ranveer Brar is undeniably one of India's most celebrated chefs of all times. At a tender age of six, he was helping cooks at his local Gurudwara with their daily 'langar' preparations. Spices intrigued him, stories even more. Today, Brar has not only carved a niche for himself in the culinary world but he's also rubbing shoulders with the crème de la crème of the industry both home and abroad, making India proud, one stellar dish at a time.
We caught up with Chef Ranveer Brar at the ongoing India International Hospitality Expo 2019. The second edition of the 4-day long exposition is touted to be South Asia's biggest hospitality expo. Excerpts from the interview:
1. What brings you to the India International Hospitality Expo?
The event is a great occasion for me to catch up with my mentors, ex-colleagues, colleagues, networking in general. It just makes me happy to be here and be a part of the hospitality ecosystem.
2. You travel a lot. Do you think travelling plays an important role in honing your skills as a chef?
When I travel, I bring back more than just recipes. I strongly believe that to create or recreate any dish, one must try to experience it at source and also understand the cultural and culinary history of the region. Travelling helps me connect with people, with food and the true flavours of the place, which I then bring back to interpret in my dishes.
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3. You are popular for your innovative cooking shows, the latest one being inspired by mothers and grandmothers. Is it a conscious call to associate with shows that are concept-driven?
Absolutely, it is a conscious call. Beyond the recipes, the messaging is equally important. Especially when you have been a chef for long and been on TV for long too, it becomes all the more important to have a strong focus on the concept.
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4. At what age did you start cooking? What would you be if you were not a chef?
Though my first stint in a kitchen was at a pretty young age, at the Gurudwara, I started serious cooking at around 15. That was when I made Rajma for my mother (she was unwell) and I heard my father praising my cooking to my mom! I love to travel and I love my cameras, so if not a chef, I would probably have been a wildlife photographer.
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5. What is that one go-to desi delicacy you enjoy the most?
Khichdi, any day. It's a perfect one-pot meal that can be versatile, has several layers to it and you can make it as nutritious as you want.
6. Your latest favourite kitchen ingredient, you have been obsessing over?
Of late, I have been besotted with Nachni. I've tried it germinated, as papads, Nachni milk. It's a wonder grain with so many health benefits that has been a part of most regional cuisines for ages.
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7. Kitchen tools that we'll always find in your kitchen?
A good hand blender is a must-have part of my kitchen. And I am obsessed with having the right kind of knives too!
8. Name some of your all-time favourite cooking inspirations from India and abroad. You can name your peers too.
Chef Manjit Gill for being the true pioneer of Indian food right back in the 90s, the great Padma Shri Imitiaz Qureshi for being the torchbearer for Lucknow, Sanjeev Kapoor for his simplicity, Kunal for his understanding of Indian food, Vikas for his persistence. The late chef Charlie Trotter is someone I have always looked up to. He was an institution in his own right. Chef Eric Briffard is another inspiration, cooking with him at Le Cordon Blue, Paris, is a memory I'll cherish forever. He approaches cuisine with so much ease and simplicity. Also, chef Marco Pierre White, whom I met last year. The list isn't comprehensive though, I could keep adding to it.
9. Since you are in Delhi-NCR, what are your favourite eating spots in the capital?
Dum Pukht definitely, House of Ming is another favourite. Also, Sevilla at Claridges have a special attachment to it as it's one of the restaurants I opened.