Saturday, September 27, 2014

Amritsar with Chef Vikas Khanna

It’s not everyday that a Michelin-starred restaurant chef takes you on a food trail. So when an opportunity like that comes along what do you do? Quite simply, grab it and grub around. That’s what I did last week along with a motley lot.

The chef in question was Vikas Khanna, the occasion was the launch of his new book Amritsar: Flavours of the Golden City (Roli Books), and the venue, quite appropriately, was his hometown and the food capital of Punjab: Amritsar.

The book is not merely a recipe guide but an ode to his beloved city and the people who shaped who he is today. A celebrity chef, the face of India in New York where he’s the executive chef at Junoon, a popular television host/guest/judge, cookbook(s) writer, documentary film-maker… Vikas Khanna dons many a hat and does so with utmost ease. He resides in America but wears Made in India on his sleeve. A proud Punjabi, he’s as much at home in Manhattan as he is on the streets he took us to, happily posing with whoever came by for a photo-op, praising nondescript cooks for their excellent skills, generously hugging dhaba-owners he had known since childhood and making them swell with pride on being credited for being a part of his evolution. 

Winsome, self-deprecating and modest to a fault, he's almost unbelievable. These are qualities that have endeared him to the masses giving him near-rockstar status. The cynic journo in me felt he skillfully plays to the gallery; perhaps an art he had mastered like his art of cooking. That aside, there's no taking away his accomplishments. In a world of 'pop-up' celebrities he stands among the achievers. Take a bow Vikas Khanna, you have walked the miles and there are many more to go.   

STOP PRESS: Oct 1, 2014: 
"Junoon is graced with FOURTH Michelin star in a row. A huge thank you to all of YOU and big congrats to the entire devoted team of Junoon who worked diligently for this honor."

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