Exclusive: Food talk with Michelin-star chef Vikas Khanna
From book deals to TV documentaries, Michelin-starred Chef Vikas Khanna, is a man in demand. One of modern day's pioneers when it comes to contemporary Indian cuisine, Chef Vikas has cooked for high-profile individuals including the Dalai Lama and US President Barack Obama.
Buro 24/7 Middle East caught up with the superstar chef when he was recently in Dubai to create a new menu at Junoon, his signature chain of fine dining Indian restaurants across the world.
OK so we have to ask: Do you like Arabic food?
I love the communal power of Arabic food. I absolutely love the flavours, the use of spices, the kebabs, that open fire roasting. I love the breads too! I am not a huge fan of the desserts, but in totality I am in awe of the way Arabic cuisine has evolved in the last few decades.
If you could put a twist on Arabic food, what would it be?
I actually do have a fun twist on mansaf, the popular Jordanian dish. I bake mine in piecrust with sun-dried tomatoes and yogurt.
Talking about reinterpretations of food, there is a fascination nowadays towards fusion food. Do you think Indian cuisine should follow the trend or stick to what's original and authentic?
Absolutely. In fact, Indian food has been following the trend of fusion for a few centuries. It is very difficult to define Indian cuisine without talking about the history of it and the fusion elements. Imagine a cuisine of India without chillis, potatoes and tomatoes. This came to India from the Portuguese. It could come from the Greeks or the Mughals. Indian food has always been fusion food. It has always embraced the influences around it.
What makes your signature restaurant Junnon stand out?
For one, we are constantly changing the menus and bringing more regional aspects to the kitchen. We put in a huge amount of effort to incorporate more interesting textures into our food, too. At the same time, we are very conscious about the health aspect of cooking and I take health very seriously. We substitute so many ingredients with greens and yogurts and we look for different techniques to retain the taste and increase the health factor.
Junoon New York has received Michelin status. What's the most difficult thing about getting a Michelin star and then maintaining it?
We don't know how the system works. One thing for sure is that it's totally secret. It's like asking: 'How do you get an Oscar'? Logically my answer would be to give the best you have. Do the best to your own abilities.
Does Dubai have the food culture to have a Michelin star restaurant?
Of course, most definitely.
OK let's quickly move on to some quickfire questions: What are three foods that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime?
Silk worms, mysore dosa and butter tea.
Name three chefs that you most admire?
Sanjeev Kapoor, Atul Kochar, Vineet Bhatia.
Share three things that people don't know about you.
I am a sculptor. It's been a hobby of mine for the past few years. I am also a huge fan of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. I also like to watch Pakistani serials from the '80s whenever I get the time.
What's next for you?
My next project will see the launch of the world edition of my book, Utsav. This will be released by the next Diwali. Furthermore my documentary, Kitchens of Gratitude, is screening at Cannes in May this year.
Finally, what is the next food trend?
Tapas. Small plates and bold flavours.
Junoon is located at the Shangri-La Hotel Dubai. For reservations, call +971 4 405 2717.