And although he does enjoy this popularity, he tells CS that along with recognition, comes great responsibility. Over to the Chef:
Cooking has now got its due status in the country and this is just the beginning. I feel proud being a chef and representing India aboard. India has always been a country known for its food. But it was long due. Now, cooking is not just a way of living but has given many people the power and confidence to live their life in a respectful way, including me.
With this extension, popularity has grown. It’s fun to be popular. In spite, of being in the kitchen, people recognise me. I have always believed that the chef is not bigger than his cooking and cooking isn’t greater than culture. So it’s not just recognition for me but for the culture as well. And with popularity, there is this pressure of taking India higher in the rank. I feel I am on a mission. Honestly, I love every part of what I am today. After all, what else would a small town Amritsar boy want from his life?
My humbleness and love for cooking has got me here. I have always stayed true to my roots. I am currently writing a book on flavours of ancient India. I have personally gone to most of the villages for their speciality cuisine and learnt them from the local women in villages. I must say that the food is tastier without any fancy spices or presentation.
My mentor, my guru
Talking about humbleness and staying true to the roots reminds me of Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. Right now, I have got an opportunity to work with him and I am excited as well as scared. I am excited because I am finally working with my mentor and nervous because he is such a big chef. I am scared of him out of the respect I have for him. While I was growing up, Sanjeev was the only chef we knew about. He is the man who has truly encouraged cooking in India when becoming a chef was not very respectable. Over the years, I have truly worshipped and followed him as a guru.
Fundas of life
There are three truths of my life which I follow like the Bible. The Golden Temple in Amritsar taught me the purpose of food. My daadi (paternal grandmother) taught me the meaning of food. And Chef Sanjeev Kapoor showed me the way to realise my dream. I owe my life to these three important events in my life and that’s what keeps me grounded.