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He serves in style

For the past 13 years he has been making the world get a taste of India with the magic of his culinary skills. Not only does he rustle up traditional flavours, but also gives them an exotic taste by fusing them with Oriental and Continental cuisines. Meet master chef Kunal Kapoor, who believes in the mantra of ďlove your job and destiny will choose youĒ. The man with an in-depth knowledge of Northwest Frontier, Punjabi, Awadhi, Dakshin, Italian and European cuisines and specialising in Indian curries and kebabs, talks to t2 about his journey of becoming a master chef and shares his views on the changing tastes and indulgence of creativity in cooking.

In modern food science, use of virgin olive oil has increased, but what do you have to say about the traditional mustard oil used during cooking?

The change in our lifestyle has compelled the gastronomes to switch over to olive oil and canola oil that are internationally accepted as healthy. These oils are coming to the Indian markets and people are consuming them out of need and not because itís a fad. However, mustard oil has a taste of itís own. But gone are those days when taste mattered for people. People now just donít want to satiate their taste buds, but also want it to be healthy enough to keep their weight in check. People now eat to live.

In the past few decades it has been found that food fusion has degraded the taste of the traditional cuisines. What you have to say about experimenting with taste?

Everyone is fond of maa ke haath ka khana and the taste of the food depends on the mothers in each generation. Every mother adds something unique to her recipe. Similarly, with each generation, food evolves and something new is added to the menu, some styles are scrapped and some become extinct. Evolution is good and food has its life cycle too. But we should always try to inherit the culinary styles and flavours of our ancestors. The new generation food are pizza, pastas and noodles.

In every Indian household, the women are considered queen of the kitchen, but ironically we hardly hear of female chefs in our country. Why is that so?

(Laughing) This question was expected from your side! Women carry the legacy of preparing food and it is still maintained, but only on the home front. Men have been professional cooks for social events and gatherings since ages. Making food at home is passion and doing the same job at five star hotels is an occupation. A chefís job is a laborious and intensive one, hence women have never indulged in this occupation. Now, you will feel there is a gender bias and ask me if women are not laborious? But believe me, cooking for four people is easy, but making it for 400 people needs good muscles and physical activity. Unfortunately, most Indian families still do not encourage girls to become professional cooks. When I had started, my friends and acquaintances taunted me saying that I have become a bawarchi. They have still not grown out of that mentality. This is probably one of the reasons why women donít make it into this profession.

Five key points to be kept in mind while cooking a tasty dish?

Your attitude towards cooking, balance of flavours, right recipe, correct raw material and correct cooking utensils are very important. For example, you can save time by cooking chicken curry in a pressure cooker, but the correct utensil to make it is a handi.

Has MasterChef compelled the people to change their traditional tastes?

We are no one to decide what people want to eat. No one can have control on the taste of others. Through MasterChef series, the people will learn to be creative with their culinary skills. No one has ever thought of taking cooking as a therapy. I personally think every house in India has a good chef. It is only how you present yourself. The MasterChef seasons are all about improving the skills and making cooking more creative.

Litti chokha is the traditional food of Bihar. The chefs here have fused it with chicken and mutton. If you were asked to recreate it what would you do?

Litti is made up of sattu and besan. I would love to make dessert out of it. If sattu can be salty then it can be sweet too. It is a versatile ingredient. How about mithhi litti..sounds cool na?

You have travelled worldwide, which food do you like the most?

I have been in this profession for the past 13 years. I like every countryís cuisine, but a day without roti makes it bad! Kya karoon Hindustani hun naa!