At a young age, he was inspired by the kebab vendors in Lucknow, and when he was 11 he started cooking sweet rice for a langar. Ranveer Brar, Indian chef and TV host, and judge on reality shows such as MasterChef India, has travelled far and wide, cooking and setting up restaurants in Mumbai, Canada and Boston, and working with some of the best hospitality brands across the world. His first book published in 2016 was titled Come into My Kitchen.
The celebrity chef describes himself in three words: stubborn, shameless, and blessed. And as we catch up with him in Bengaluru at the World on a Plate event where he interacts with fans and patiently poses for pictures, he talks about his food philosophy, the Indian food industry and its changing trends.
Small-town folk make it big
Ranveer points out how some of the most successful chefs today in Indian television, be it Vikas Khanna, Sanjeev Kapoor, Ajay Chopra or Ranveer himself, are not from the big cities.
“The biggest takeaway for me is that we are all small-town kids,” he says. “This business allows you the space, will and freedom to succeed and if you have the keen desire to prove yourself, then this is the business you have to be in. That is how I see it. I see it purely as an industry that allows you to break the rules and prove yourself.”
To succeed in this industry what one needs is focus. “We are a very lucky generation. We didn’t have too many distractions and our path was very clear when we started working. Now there are many opportunities but distractions too. Sticking to the basics and staying focused are the two attributes that you need to carry with you.”
For Ranveer, his soul food is khichdi (a savoury dish made with pulses and rice), which he enjoys with a dollop of ghee. Ask him where his roots lie, in Lucknow or in Punjab, and pat comes the reply, “I am very lucky to be a mixture of Lucknow and Punjab with their contrasting cultures - one is subtle, very refined and delicate and the other is very robust, very in-your-face and very real. Not to say Lucknow is not real but Punjab is more in-your-face. To come genetically from one culture and to have grown up in another gives you a perspective of both sides. And that’s why I feel that I lie somewhere in the middle of Lucknow and Punjab.”
Food is about emotions
Ranveer feels that food is linked with emotions. “Khane se bhav ka nirvah hota hai,” he says, which means food transfers emotions. “The five fingers are the five rasas and from these rasas we get rasoi. So every time you are cooking you are transferring emotions. If it’s made with joy and love, the food will be received happily,” he quips.
Given the stress levels, the travel and the tasks on his plate, how does he find peace? “I make mistakes. If I hold myself accountable for everything every time, it’s not good. So I have learnt to forgive myself and others around me. It doesn’t mean going back on standards; it just means allowing myself to breathe easy and get back with same vigour the next day. The other thing that I do is I pray. For me spirituality is not following any religion but finding a connection with a universal entity as the one body that can take it all. This really helps me.”
Ranveer says that one of the major trends he has seen is that people are not just consuming food but are craving an experience. “People are more curious today and consuming not just food, but the stories around food. The Indian consumer is not just consuming a product, they are consuming an experience. That is a big change that has happened. Also, I see a certain sense of pride that has come to the Indian consumers in the last few three years or so, where desi is cool. You are proud to call yourself an Indian and eat Indian. That’s beautiful,” he adds.