“Food is Feelings Transferred onto the Plate…”

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Abid Mohammed talks to Chef Ranveer Brar to find out how he found his true calling

Author, TV show host, judge for cookery shows and food stylist are a few hats that Chef  Ranveer Brar juggles successfully apart from creating magic in the kitchen. At 25 he was the youngest executive chef to have ever worked with a five-star hotel in India. His passion, determination and his skills have today made him a household name.

The host of various successful TV shows like Ranveer On The Road, an exclusive Twitter video series which is on to its second season at present, a reality show on Living Foodz, The Great Indian Rasoi Seasons 1 & 2, Breakfast Xpress, Snack Attack, Health Bhi Taste Bhi, Home Made, Ranveer’s Cafe, Food Tripping along with Chef Gautam Mehrishi, he was also one of the judges for season 4 of MasterChef India, alongwith Sanjeev Kapoor and Vikas Khanna.

Ranveer has recently ventured into the hospitality business with the launch of his restaurants – Mayura, TAG Gourmart Kitchen and English Vinglish, a premium vegetarian patisserie chain, while also overseeing the opening of FLYP at MTV’s new outlet in Mumbai. A quick chat with him reveals more…

As a child were you fussy about food?

Not really! Growing up on a farm instilled in me a strong appreciation for food and its origins. And with my Biji (who strictly disapproved food wastage) the menu was straightforward – take it or leave it!

When did you decide to become a Chef?

At the age of fifteen, when I cooked rajma for my mom for the first time, I realised that food was my true calling. Up until then I had been going through the different stages of food appreciation, connecting with it at different levels, from enjoying different cuisines at my neighbours’ homes, to exploring the street food of Lucknow or conversations with the local grocer. But that one exercise (cooking for mom) which earned plaudits from my father sealed the deal!

What was your family’s reaction to your wanting to be a chef?

It was pretty much like lighting a match in a room full of hay! Hailing from a family of landlords, the idea of pursuing cooking as a profession was quite unacceptable and suffice to say my proposal did not meet with approval.

Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you started cooking?

Fine arts intrigued me. I wanted to be a painter; at times a photographer too. I still pursue those passions when I get time.

Which talent would you most like to have that you don’t possess?

I would love to learn to play the flute. It’s really fascinating to see what breath can do. And flute is a perfect example of how breath can mesmerise.

Where did you train to cook?

My initiation to cooking was quite unexpected. I used to frequent the Langar at the local Gurudwara every Sunday. Once someone spotted me and called me in to cook! I prepared Meethe Chawal for the first time which for some divine reason, actually turned out well. I was thirteen then.

After I decided to pursue cooking as a life purpose, I joined Munir Ustad, a skilled and one of the oldest Kebab vendors in Lucknow, as an apprentice for about six months. I then went on to pursue a more formal degree at IHM, Lucknow.

How would you describe your style of cooking?

I would call it experiential and progressive. For me food is feelings transferred onto the plate, I just put on a plate what I feel. Experiences from my travel, places I visit, cuisines I explore, I try to interpret them into my dishes.

Do you have a signature dish or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?

The Dora Kebab is my favourite to cook. It’s delicately flavoured with khus and sandalwood and cooked on a silken thread.

What trends are you seeing in food today, and which are you most excited by?

Researching and rediscovering forgotten cuisines, backto-roots ingredients and dishes and farm-to-table are trends that I definitely find positive. Also, entertaining at home vis-à-vis ordering in or eating out is gaining more favour with people.

Are there any ingredients that have fallen out of fashion for you?

I would say quite a lot of molecular stuff has fallen out of fashion. It’s good to see people going back to where they started from – simplicity of food; and I find that both encouraging and beautiful.

What projects of yours are currently in progress?

Lots going on at the moment! Earlier this year I opened a restaurant chain with awadhi flavours called Mayura, with the first outlet in Greater Toronto Area, Canada.

Last year my first restaurant opened in Mumbai, called TAG:Gourmart Kitchen, which is an all vegetarian outing. English Vinglish, a premium vegetarian patisserie chain opened its latest and third outlet in Jaipur this June. Being the culinary director of Funbars Hospitality, I am also presently overseeing the opening of FLYP at MTV’s new outlet in Mumbai.

In the visual space, I am judging a reality show on Living Foodz and part of a food documentary on another channel that is to begin soon. One of my pet projects is Ranveer On The Road, an exclusive Twitter video series which is into its second season at present and I am exploring Turkey for its third outing as we speak!

Tell us about your new restaurant?

TAG Gourmart Kitchen is an artist’s space; both in the kitchen and the studio. TAG, which stands for ‘The Amateur Gallery’ supports and showcases work by upcoming artists, while on the other level, the restaurant features gourmet vegetarian fare. Here I play with ingredients to create and recreate dishes that would typically be associated with meat, paired with the perfect wine.

Mayura on the other hand highlights awadhi flavours, a cuisine close to my heart and roots. It aims to holistically create a menu that excites a diner’s senses.

Tell us about your TV show?

The reality show currently airing on Living Foodz is called Femme Foodies, Asia’s first Food Truck based show.

Raja Rasoi’s new season is set to begin in July on EPIC, which will transition viewers away from the typical counter-top cooking to more of a conversational exploration where I experiment with and deconstruct old and new flavours.

You recently launched your Book. Do tell us a bit about it.

Come Into My Kitchen, my debut as an author was my way of taking readers through my life journey, especially the culinary aspect of it. My favourite part of the book is my self-evolved concept of a food pyramid that I call ‘Ranveer’s Hierarchy of Taste’. It breaks down the reaction of our senses and their perception towards food at different stages.

Is there another chef you most admire?

Heston Blumenthal and Charlie Trotter inspire me greatly. Above all, I learn something new from every person I meet in my travels.

What should people eat in monsoons?

Monsoons tend to veer us towards spicy and fried food. But it’s also a time when our digestive system is at its vulnerable best due to high humidity. It’s ideal to eat light, eat safe, stay hydrated and include Vitamin-rich (especially Vitamin C) foods in the diet to boost immunity.

What’s your favourite street food?

Kebabs in Lucknow, Kulla chaat in Delhi, Tele Bhaja in Kolkata and currently, Stuffed Mussels and Kestane or roasted chestnuts in Turkey!

What is your favourite foodcity?

I would say it’s a tie between Lucknow and Kolkata.

Feelings June – July 2017

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