James Beard Award Nominee and Michelin Star Chef Vikas Khanna is an internationally acclaimed Indian chef, award-winning author, poet and filmmaker. He is the recipient of Access to Freedom Award, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Shining Star Award, GQ Man of the Year and was featured as “10 Global Legendary Chefs who’ve revolutionized our eating habits” by Deutsche Welle.
He is host of MasterChef India, Twist of Taste and National Geographic’s Mega Kitchens. He has been a guest on MasterChef Australia, Martha Stewart, Hell’s Kitchen, Beat Bobby Flay and many more shows. Gordon Ramsay featured him as “Top Indian Chef in New York City” on Kitchen Nightmares.
Khanna has established himself as a top authority on Indian Cuisine, hosting successful cooking shows and has written more than 25 cookbooks. His book Flavors First won the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award. Khanna Sutra, My Great India and Savor Mumbai won Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
UTSAV- A Culinary Epic of Indian Festivals has become the world’s most expensive cookbook. UTSAV was launched at 68th Cannes Film Festival and has been presented to President Obama, HH Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, PM Modi and most recently Khanna was invited to Buckingham Palace to present UTSAV to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
New York Times has called his “cooking style inventive” and New York Magazine quoted “an instinctive chef whose dishes just get it right” in a review.
Khanna was featured on the covers of Forbes Life, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health, GQ and many more. He was recently awarded “Stardust Global Icon” and “Best TV Chef” by Indian Telly Awards.
His documentary series Holy Kitchens, which explores the bond between faith and food, has been showcased at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Oxford and many other Universities and Film Festivals. His documentary “Kitchens of Gratitude” was featured at Marche du Film during 69th Cannes Film Festival.
Khanna developed workshops “Vision of Palate”, to create awareness of favors and aromas for the visually impaired. He has honored with Proclamation from Mayor Bloomberg and Comptroller William Thompson of New York City. He was also the first Indian to be featured as New Yorker of the Week on NY1.
Khanna has been featured on Eyewitness, ABC News, NBC, Fox for his work with foundations like Save the Children, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross and Smile Foundation through which he raises funds and awareness for hunger and education.
His initiatives through SAKIV have hosted fundraisers for South Asian Tsunami, Katrina, Haiti and many more with some of the most influential chefs including Daniel Boulud, Jean Georges and Alain Ducasse.
Khanna has been documenting Indian cuisine, rituals and customs for decades. His most ambitious project is opening in 2018 in Manipal (India) – “Museum of Culinary Arts at WGSHA”. It will be one of a kind institution, which showcases the rich Indian heritage, history and diversity through kitchen equipment. It is dedicated to his late father, Mr. Davinder Khanna.
He lives in New York City with his prized collection of thousands of cookbooks.
He is a huge admirer of Petite Philips, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Tarla Dalal.Pink Floyd, Lata Mangeshkar, Simon and Garfunkel are on his playlist. His favorite place in the world is Golden Temple, Amritsar.
Q & A
“I think it was the power of kitchens and farms. When I witness the power of food and how it was so uniting it nature, I wanted to be close to it”
What made you want to become a chef?
I think it was the power of kitchens and farms. When I witness the power of food and how it was so uniting it nature, I wanted to be close to it.
Who has influenced your cooking style or your philosophy on food?
Initially it was about homecoming. Then during my admission at WGSHA in Manipal, it was South Indian cuisine that influenced my cooking style. But, it was always about home cooking that inspired me.
What inspires you or where do you get your inspiration from?
Simple rituals, cooking cooking, seasons and most importantly the spices.
What is your favourite method of cookery or preparation?
I love searing. It helps to give a great texture and restore the moisture’s inside.
What is your favourite ingredient?
What is your favourite kitchen tool?
What is your favourite section in the kitchen to work on during your apprenticeship?
I loved the butchery. The way the different parts were divided and cooked for particular recipes.
Where you like to eat out?
I love the versatility of simple street foods in any city I visit.
What would you like to see change with the cooking schools?
More focus on regional Indian cooking.
Your advice to young chefs?
Practice and Observe as much as you can. Discipline will take you forward.
What do you look for when hiring staff?
Honesty ang commitment.
What would you like to see change in the industry?
More focus on regional cuisines of India.
How do you deal with awkward guests?
What is your first memory of food that blew your mind?
Puffing of breads.
What is your favourite escape to relax?
What drives your ambition?
The thought that the opportunities don’t last too long.
What is your signature dish?
Rendered duck breasts with Pepper sauce.
How do you motivate your team?
There is a lot of explore in the food and cultures of India. Let’s bring the best to the world.
How do you think restaurants should be rated?
If you had to build the best kitchen team who would be in your kitchen all stars?
Everyone who works with discipline, honesty and devotion is a star.