By Rituparna Sengupta Basu
Beyond the man into that chef apron, Ranveer Brar is an amazing personality as well. His passion for food, love for cooking, interacting skill with peoples are non-questionable. Here are some indulging moments with Celebrity Chef Ranveer Brar which Expresso want to share with you all the foodies (and non-foodies) out there.
Expresso: Tell us about your journey as a chef?
Ranveer: I was fifteen when I decided that food was my true calling and I wanted to pursue it professionally. Up until then, I was simply acquainting myself with food in my hometown Lucknow, being it cooking at the langar, enjoying different cuisines at my neighbours’ homes, exploring the street foods of Lucknow or having conversations with the local grocer. What started as a culinary exploration, gradually grew into a passion.
Expresso: What’s the one cooking experience that you can never forget?
Ranveer: I once cooked for Shri Vajpayee, We shared anecdotes about our connection with food. That will always be close to heart experience for me.
Expresso: What is your signature dish? Your favourite cuisines…
Ranveer: I wouldn’t exactly call it a signature, but a dish I love to cook because of its sophistication is the Dorra Kebab. Favourite cuisines…Lucknow tops the list, of course, I love food from the Bengali cuisine as well, having grown up in a Bengali neighbourhood. Internationally, Italian cuisine is my favourite.
Expresso: Which is your favourite cooking ingredient? What is your comfort food?
Ranveer: Ghee, maybe because of the Punjabi in me. It just makes you smile! Also coriander. Comfort food is Panjiri, as also ghee laden parathas.
Expresso : How did Raja Rasoi Aur Andaaz Anokha come to be?
Ranveer: Raja Rasoi has been my favourite show. Not many people might know this but I almost did Season 1 and even shot a pilot for it, then I got busy and it didn’t work out at that time. So amazingly it came back around and I got to be a part of Seasons 3 and 4.
Expresso: What is the motivation behind your show? The dishes you’ve chosen to prepare on the show, do they have any special significance?
Ranveer: ‘Raja Rasoi’ is the kitchen of abundance. Not the literal meaning of a royal kitchen, but one that is plentiful, opulent. And that’s not just an abundance of ingredients, it’s also an abundance of passion and positivity when cooking. Through the show, we have tried to rediscover cooking aspects that are lesser known, for example, Marshall Food, the favourite food of the poets, and many others. But more than the actual dishes and ingredients, it’s the stories and history attached to them that make these cuisines richer, dynamic and versatile. Also the way we have adapted not just food but also ingredients made them our own and lent our unique flavour to them. So the focus is on not just showcasing dishes and recipes but helping viewers establish a connect with the food.
Expresso: Lighten us about your new show ‘Maa ki Baat’…Why you choose web platform instead of the TV for your new show?
Ranveer: It is a 20 part series. The idea comes from the appreciation (actually under-appreciation) of an Indian senior homemaker and why she doesn’t get the credit she deserves. It’s amazing how a Mother translates her love for the family into food, amongst many other things she does for the household. But how many of us turn around and ask – Maa, Tujhe Kya pasand hai?!’ So for me, food worked out to be the medium to give her that credit. It seemed like the perfect Ode to all she does for her loved ones. I wanted to experiment with a parallel medium, especially with so much happening in the digital space. I am overwhelmed with the tremendous love and response it has received.
Expresso: Tell us about some of the most interesting cuisines you had on your travels across India. Which is your ultimate food destination? As you travelling a lot, what is the type of foodie people in India?
Ranveer: Plenty! My food explorations help me learn more about different cultures, their influence on cuisine and bring it back as interpretations of what I cook.
Travelling through India, especially the smaller cities, towns and villages I’ve discovered the incredible richness of our culture and cuisine. And what’s even more fascinating is the sheer amount of variations in a given cuisine between one city and another in the same region. For example, I had this unforgettable Doodh Saar at a quaint village in Kolhapur district called Radhanagari. It’s the vegetarian answer to the famous Pandhra Rassa of Kolhapuri cuisine. It’s a very humble dish but like I say, it’s difficult to be simple and that’s where this dish becomes even more beautiful. Then there’s the Kusubi Huggi, a salty porridge made with Safflower or Saffola seeds, popular in the North Karnataka cuisine. I discovered another gem called Krishna Kaatchi vangi, eggplants from the bank of the river Krishna, found in Narsobhachi Wadi. Tasted absolutely amazing. Yet another unique eggplant I found is called Mattu Gulla. It’s grown in the village of Matti or Mattu, Udupi. The list is endless. I wouldn’t say ultimate, but favourite food destinations for me are Lucknow, Kolkata and Turkey.
I find that foodies in India, are now evolved into food explorers. Especially with the help of social media, they have these peer groups that help each other discover the best in any place, the new Indian foodie is more open to experimenting, has more of an open mind when it comes to travel and food.
Expresso: You travel a lot overseas as well. So what type of other country’s culture you love to showcase in your show?
Ranveer: Culture and cuisine go hand in hand. For me, cuisine cannot be studied in isolation. As a food explorer and chef, I need that connect with food, to find out the journey of a dish or ingredient, talk to people, understand what it means to them, their connection with the cuisine. Be it in India or abroad, food is a universal language that brings people together. so it’s aspects like these that I try and bring across in my shows and features.
Expresso: What type of other cuisines rather than India you like most?
Ranveer: Turkish cuisine is very fascinating for me. How it’s evolved over centuries and civilisations. Scandinavian cuisine is another favourite that I hope to explore more in the near future.
Expresso: Your inspiration for becoming a chef? Your craziest dining experience?
Ranveer: The city where I grew up, the food influences around me, the street food, all these contributed to my growing passion for food and eventually to pursue it single-mindedly. During my last trip to Switzerland, I took a 2 and a half hours to trek up to one of the oldest mountain guesthouses in Switzerland. The place is called Berggasthaus Aescher-Wildkirchli and they serve an amazing back to roots cuisine. Another one was a meal at a Tree-top cabin at Soneva Kiri resort in Koh Kood, Thailand.
Expresso: What is the real essence of being a chef? Do they really need to be on a TV show?
Ranveer: The true essence of being a chef is falling in love with food, exploring your love for food, holistically and single-mindedly. In this day and age, there are so many versatile and wide-reaching mediums, so it need not be restricted to TV. There’s an immense growth in digital mediums for anyone and everyone who wants to do something in the field of food.
Expresso: a Most common mistake that people make while cooking?
Ranveer: Complicating it! Cooking is all about getting the basics right and keeping it simple.
You need to trust your instincts and use recipes as guidelines and then what you create is magic..
Expresso: How is your Master Chef’s experience?
Ranveer: It was an amazing season, shooting with Sanjeev Kapoor and Vikas. We shared terrific camaraderie. Up until then, I was part of shows where I was the one cooking. So to be on the other side of the counter and witness these contestants and their passion for food was a great experience.
Expresso: If you do not be a chef what you would be? Does your family always be supportive when you wanted to become a chef?
Ranveer: Initially there was some resistance to the idea as my family was more comfortable with traditional occupations. But when they saw that I was absolutely decided on it, they gave in. If not a chef, I would have been a wildlife photographer maybe.
Expresso: What’s your take on finding real Indian food? One dish you can eat every day?
Ranveer: Travel. We can find millions of recipes on different mediums, but I strongly feel one must taste the dish at its source in its native form to do it justice.
Khichdi, I can eat it any time, any day.
Expresso: What does Celebrity Chef Ranveer Brar do on lazy Saturdays/Sundays?
Ranveer: Cook for the family, typically breakfast, especially for my son Ishaan who loves pancakes in any form!
Expresso: Three quick cooking tips?
Ranveer: – Let food cook without checking it from time to time. When you are looking, you are not cooking
– Cook food till about 90% or just done as it will continue cooking in the residual heat
– Keep ingredients handy and in order of addition to the dish.
Expresso: What is your success mantra?
Ranveer: I trust food, trust that the more I give to food the more it will give back.