Aroma of Delhi, sizzling cooking and a soft delight in the flavor makes a finery of menu. Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is one of the most prominent chefs from India who has a great taste in every dish and his successful TV Show Khana Khazana has appeared on Zee TV since 1993. He has authored many books based on Indian Recipes. “Khana Khazana” won Best Cookery Show in 2001 and he is recipient of the Best Executive Chef of India Award by H & FS and the Mercury Gold Award at Geneva by IFCA.
To know more about him we have conducted an exclusive chit chat with him:
The News Tribe: Tell me something about your education. Can you tell us when you decided to become a professional chef and was there anyone in particular who influenced your decision?
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: My schooling was done in various states of India as my father, being employed by a bank, had a transferable job. So many different cities have been our home and my mother used to pick up the local recipes and cook for us with great ease.
Maybe this was the beginning…as I grew up learning a lot about well cooked Indian home food. This was also the earliest education in food for me! For my formal training in Hotel Management I joined the Institute of Hotel Management Pusa (Delhi) and enjoyed my learning there, got a clear picture of my dreams and then my journey to become a good chef began.
Let me share a backgrounder. Since my growing up years I had this intense desire to be someone different, do something different from what the rest of my family and my peers were doing. I had the choice of going in for architecture and had applied for it, but on a friend’s behest also applied for a catering course, you know, for that ‘just in case’ situation!
Maybe that moment when I applied for the catering course, was the defining moment, though I did not know it! There wasn’t anyone particular who influenced my decision.
I knew it from my childhood that men can cook. I watched my father cook along with my mother, then my elder brother joined in and not wanting to be left out I started pottering around with them in the kitchen at a young age. Must be around seven or eight years old.
The News Tribe: Where you were trained and how different was your training?
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: During the stint in IHM, we were putting in long tedious hours in the kitchen, and not allowed to be tired! This was the best training as a chef’s job requires a lot of stamina. After my graduation, I have been a chef in various positions at various properties in India and abroad. This was hands on training on the field and extremely satisfying.
The News Tribe: What was your first job as a professional cook and what was that like?
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: I started work as a kitchen management trainee in 1984 in ITDC. After two years I had a good position as Chef in the same group in Varanasi. As I began my professional career, I did menial jobs with no hesitation, but absolute dedication. So, basically it was a no-frill job for me For instance, there were days when I was just cleaning the deep fryers, grills, or was just doing one job at a time like peeling of fruits, making salads, etc. There were also days when there were big functions and I didn’t even get a chance to go home and work late shifts. But that’s how the industry works, and like I mentioned, this was sort of a training that was preparing me for the bigger things in life lying ahead. Of course, these things changed with the time spent in the industry, and in a matter of two years, I could see myself achieving the goals that I had set for myself.
The News Tribe: What mistakes do you find novice cooks making over and over again and what can they do to avoid them?
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: Cooking is very forgiving! Novice cooks are under training and allowed to make mistakes, just don’t let those mistakes become a part of you. After all, it’s all about getting everything together in a perfect way! If you are a novice, you need to quietly follow the instructions from your seniors without arguing, and eventually you will realize what your strength is.
The News Tribe: Best cooking tip for a novice?
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: After self realization, get into mastering that technique, for example, bakery, pastry or any cuisine in particular. But remember not to be impatient and hasty. You also have to realize that you need to take extra efforts since nothing will come your way easily. You have to keep your eyes and ears constantly open, grab each opportunity that comes your way and make the most of it.
The News Tribe: Do you have a signature dish or a favorite you can share with us?
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: SHAAM SAVERA
The News Tribe: Have you ever heard your readers complain about feeling stuck in the kitchen and how they get stick to same 4 or 5 “safe” recipes they feel comfortable with? What advice will you give to them?
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: I don’t get any such requests/complains these days. Those days are gone where people wanted to fall on safe recipes. Nowadays, they want to try something new themselves, be unique than the rest and get the dishes endorsed by their guests and friends. I would say that self-motivation is the key to this and you should try out new recipes with great enthusiasm!
The News Tribe: What advice would you offer a young person interested in getting into the culinary industry?
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: Well, this field is wide open! It’s growing, shining…an opportunity that is knocking on the door. Success always comes with strings attached. A lot of hard work, perseverance, patience, and sincerity, willingness to learn and better oneself and love for one’s work goes into practice before one can achieve success. The catering career is no different from any other career. Anybody who has the aptitude can go in for it. But it’s important to remember these golden rules:
- That, the industry is glamorous, which is a complete myth. Don’t judge a book by its cover!
- You should enter only if you have passion for this subject.
- You need to be physically very strong as there are long hours of work.
- Entry level salaries are low. So, it needs your full dedication and hard work that will get you going places!