Chef Ranveer Brar talks about the big F — food, people!
From the lanes of Lucknow, a kebab-loving boy began his journey and is now celebrated as a chef all around the world. His The Breakfast Xpress left the dining table and entered The Great Indian Rasoi where we learnt all about Home Made stuff and we couldn't help but justify our actions as a Snack Attack. Thank God It's Fryday, but we don't need a specific day to go Food Tripping, do we?
Masterchef Ranveer's Cafe is open and so are his kitchen secrets. From there, we bring you a masaledar chit-chat we had with Chef Ranveer Brar.
Promoting Sony BBC Earth's latest show Secrets Behind Food – which is an anthology of three shows —Supermarket Secrets, Food Factory Supersized and The Food Detectives – Ranveer describes it as a "non-Indian show which doesn't feature me but the three have a common thread as they talk about the 'why' behind food —why we eat what we eat."
"Why do certain things cook better than others? What happens when we process food? It goes beyond the idea of just teaching people the recipe and showing them how to cook. And that is something I personally stand for. I have always believed there are three parts to cooking — there is the method, there is the romance and there is the science. While you can teach the method as a recipe, the romance and the science need to be inculcated," he tells T2 Online.
"It is an essential part of the puzzle. Because all these three shows in the anthology talk about the science and reason behind cooking, that's what attracted me and I'm really happy to anchor and tie them together," adds Brar.
Interesting! But that's not all. What followed was a fun chat that ranged from fun food talk to serious stuff such as the Indian farmer's plight to really random things. We suggest you get some bhajiyas (his fave monsoon snack) and read along.
Food dedication level is above 100
These days people want to eat right, know what they are eating. There's a shift in people's mindset as compared to the past. What's your take on that?
Absolutely. We are now a back-of-the-pack country and no longer the-front-of-the-pack-country. I work with a lot of food brands and that's what the learning is. In today's India, you flip the box over and you read what's in the box, rather than just seeing the branding because it's all bright and colourful, and has your favourite colours and your favourite characters on it. That's why most of the back-of-the-pack things are now moving to the front. Now, the front of a product itself will say, 'No Gluten', 'No this or that', 'No fat', because brands understand people want to go beyond what they see.
What's your take on millennials and their eating habits?
They need to have more ghee.
Things which millennials are doing wrong, food-wise?
The first thing they're doing wrong is that they are taking their lessons from the West. Secondly, they are looking for perfection in the ingredients. Thirdly, they believe the farmer is this urban cultivator who is growing ingredients for passion and the joy of it. That is their understanding of farm-to-table. They are not aware of the condition of real farmers who toil day in and day out to get food on the table. That perception of an Indian farmer needs to change.
The Indian millennial thinks the farmer is this cool guy with two acres of land, who has quit his job and is now farming for strawberries and some organic stuff because he learnt it in Australia. That's not the Indian farmer. The Indian farmer is the guy who's probably at the bottom when it comes to per capita income. And he's still trying to survive in the market where agricultural lands are shrinking and the middlemen are making all the money. And if millennials really want to take up a cause, they should take up the Indian farmer's cause.
3 magic food items from your grandma's kitchen?
Desi ghee, ajwain (carom seeds), and sendha namak (rock salt).
What's your comfort food?
Khichdi with lots of ghee.
What's your 2am snacking option?
Name a few quick snacking options that can be made using three or fewer ingredients.
Guava chat – cut guava with spices on top. Makhana is a great snack. Banana chips – oil, salt and banana. Corn in various forms — such as chats, corn on the cob, etc.
Food shows that you are hooked to?
There is this gentleman named Rick Stein, he is a British guy who travels and does food shows. He's way past 60, but his perspective, his philosophy is so good. He is not someone who is jumping around, eating food and telling you how good it is. He has a mature perspective on everything and he connects the dots when he travels.
He covered the jazz, the blues and the food of New Orleans on Rick Stein Tastes The Blues. That has been the most amazing episode on a food travel show I have ever seen.
Are you a Netflix person?
I am. I am crazy about movies, yaar.
3 movies and three shows you are completely hooked to?
Movies: Layer Cake, Requiem for a Dream, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
TV Shows: The Ranch, House of Cards, Game of Thrones.
What are the three things in your pocket, right now?
Nothing, yaar. Just my wallet with no money in it. I went for my son's admission. They asked me for Rs 200 for the form, I just didn't have it. I am this undisciplined, careless guy.
What's the Indian food influence on Western culture?
The reason the world is having a conversation about turmeric is because of us. The conversation about grains is because of us. The whole reason they are talking about food being used in medicine is also because of us. You know, you go back a little and you'll know there have been only two civilisations that have used food as medicine – China and India.
One desi spice that's a magic ingredient, hands down?
Shahi jeera (royal cumin). I grind it, crush it, use it in bread, in desserts, in coconut milk, etc.
What's your poison?
A well-made Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.
Indian aphrodisiac food items would be?
Drumsticks, Shilajit, of course, and there's this hairy bean (mau dou in Chinese). I can't remember its Hindi name. But it's the next Shilajit.
The first thing that comes to your mind upon hearing the following words: