Kunal Kapur is one of the few Indian celebrity chefs. He is best known as the host and judge of the TV series MasterChef India Season 1, 2 and 3 on Star Plus. He has many other accolades against his name, ranging from being in Limca Book Of Records for creating India’s Largest “Chocolate Tower” to winning the Gourmet Guru award by Food and Nightlife magazine to being awarded the prestigious Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship in the field of Food & Beverage by the Government of New Zealand. Kunal Kapur restaurant “Diya” restaurant at Leela Ambience Gurgaon has won the Best Indian Restaurant Award three times in a row in Gurgaon for the years 2009–2012, by the Times Food Guide.
We met him at his hotel to talk about his experiences as a judge with Masterchef India, as a chef and as a family man.
School/College: St Frances De Sales School, Delhi; IHM Chandigarh |First Job: Taj Palace Hotel, Delhi | Currently Doing: Executive Sous Chef, The Leela Ambence, Gurgaon
High Point of your Life: Getting my first job | Low Point of your Life: My Grandfather’s death
Aalok Wadhwa: What led to your becoming Master-chef India judge?
Kunal Kapur: I was invited by the production house after they had done extensive research on chefs. After an interaction, some five chefs were shortlisted. I was chosen because, as per them, “when I spoke about food, it came from the heart.”
KK) (Laughs) I am a very different person than how you see me on the Television. By nature I am shy. The show has given me confidence.
AW) The most memorable moment at MC India?
KK) There are many. The most memorable moments were with Masterchef Junior. I was always scared of kids, but here I instantly connected with them. They put your life in perspective. They are not competitive like adults, and are ever ready to help anyone who is lagging behind in the contest.
KK) With so many people eager to participate, and so much food to be tasted, the frustrating part is having to eat when you don’t want to eat, and then once Masterchef season is over, the months of controlling the diet to get back in shape.
AW) When and why did you decide to become a chef?
KK) I belong to a middle-class Punjabi Banker family. With my being the only boy in my generation, it was expected that I too would become a banker. But I was scared of Maths and not too good at accounts. I confessed to my dad that I did not want to do Banking, and once a friend got into Hotel Management, I decided to try my hand at it, because it was easy to get a job there, and for me that was the most important thing. Once I got in there, I realized that cooking is what appealed to me.
KK) A really bad Banker with a calculator.
AW) Do you remember the first dish you cooked?
KK) I made Tea for the family once. It was terrible. My mother then taught me how to make it correctly.
AW) Who has been the biggest influence in your life for you to reach the stage where you are today?
KK) No one person. I pick up different things from different people and imbibe them in my life.
KK) Once I made fried Ice cream for my 90 year old grandfather. He kept calling me crazy as I was making it, but once he ate it, he said “badi changi cheez hai” (this is very good). This is a compliment I cherish
AW) Your family…
KK) Wife and a two year old son
AW) With long working hours, especially on weekends and festivals, how do you keep your family happy?
AW) What is your favourite food?
KK) Karela and phulka
AW) One dish of your grandmother, which you could never replicate?
KK) Churi (paratha broken down and mixed with ghee and sugar). I tried making it for my child. It just doesn’t taste the same.
AW) How do you keep abreast of latest in cooking techniques?
AW) One kitchen tool, you cannot live without?
AW) What would you like your last meal in this world to be?
Anything cooked by my mom
AW) What scares you?
KK) Singapore, Dubai
AW) One tip that you would like to give to budding chefs?
KK) For the first five years, put your head down and just work – success will follow in the coming years.
AW) What keeps you on your toes?
KK) Enthusiasm for work. Every morning I am excited to come to work.
KK) A large pot of clear soup with a lot of vegetables and boiled chicken
AW) What will be the name of your restaurant?
KK) Still struggling with the name
AW) The last line of your autobiography would be…
KK) That’s it. Now go and read something more interesting.
AW) Please share one of your favourite recipes with your fans.
Prep time – 25mins
Cooking time – 20 mins
No of portion – 20
Sweetened whipped cream –400gm
Paan leaves puree –100gm
Fennel seed –30gm
Supari – 10 gms
Dry rose petals –30gm
Mascarpone cheese — 200gm
- For jelly soak gelatin for 10min in 20ml cold water. Boil rest of water and gulkand. Add gelatin to this mixture when hot and set in a mould keep in fridge for 2hrs to set.
- For mousse boil together paan leaves puree, milk, fennel seeds, supari and rose petals. Strain, allow to cool and add mascarpone cheese, melted gelatin and then fold in the whipped cream.
- Layer this mousse mixture in a rectangle mould filling 1/3 of the pan, level it with a spoon. Add a layer of pre set jelly and then fill the mould with remaining mousse.
Keep in fridge for 1hour, demould and cut into desired shape.