“Stay Rooted and Be Passionate”
For someone who started cooking at the tender age of 17, Ranveer has come a long way. From his humble origins of working with a kebab wala for 7-8 months, he is now hailed as one of the top chefs in India. Abraxas Lifestyle recently caught up with the chef at the Tibetan Monastery in Majnu Ka Tila, Delhi for a shoot.
A typical work day for the chef starts at 09:30am with the morning meeting followed by kitchen rounds and hygiene audits, after which he cooks a dish or two for the lunch buffet. He follows that up by sending/responding to emails and other administrative work. Then there is a post lunch and chefs meeting and the second half of his day is dedicated to trials of new menus and new dishes. He presides over the start of the dinner service and then hits the gym at 8 pm to end his day.
Ranveer is inspired by food and its various facets. He considers food to be a great medium of expression as it involves stimulating all senses unlike other art forms that stimulate just one or two (visual and hearing). One of his biggest inspirations, he says, is the response he gets from viewers about their innovations with the recipes that he shows on TV and how these recipes have inspired them to cook more and better.
With a food philosophy that believes in cooking from the heart and working with ingredients that are fresh, local and seasonal, the award winning chef’s signature dish is the Dorra kebab – a sandalwood flavoured delicate lamb kebab that is cooked on a smoked silk thread.
When asked how Indian cuisine has evolved over the years, he explains how Indian cuisine has always had three facets – food from the Royal kitchens, home kitchens and Street cuisine. He goes on to reveal that although Royal food has long been the focus of the industry, but of late the home cooked meal is finding its way into menus as comfort food. Street food is a big favourite at food festivals, promotions, and the street flavour sections in regular menus. The primary reason for this being the customers’ awareness of local flavours as it’s a habit now to Google before one travels.
After having opened multiple restaurants across the world, it’s very difficult for him to pick a favourite, but he says he if had to pick one it would still be ‘Sevilla’ at The Claridges – his first Spanish restaurant that has won numerous awards till day.
Talking about his family, Ranveer reveals that though they objected initially, once he started off his parents have been nothing but supportive and have never stopped him from doing what he has wanted to do – be it go to America or to Singapore. He goes on to talk about his wife, who is also a chef. A fact unknown to many, Ranveer credits his wife for playing a very big role in making him what he is today.
When asked about the age old debate of male versus female chefs, he believes that it’s the members of the fairer sex that make better chefs. Male chefs have a 200 to 300 year head start, he says, since the Khansamas, Rakhabdars and even the Nawabi cooks were all males. “Women chefs have a lot of ground to cover, but I feel that they catching up fast.”
In conclusion, he discloses that the essential ingredients to being a good chef are passion and humility – one has to stay rooted and be passionate at the same time.
If you’re a beginner in the industry, he says, “Stick to the basics and relate to food with respect and curiosity. Also, always remember that there is no substitute for hard work.”
About the Chef
A young achiever born in Lucknow with immense passion for food, Ranveer started his journey in hotels with the streets of Lucknow, cooking with kebab vendor, Munir Ahmed at the age of 16, then studied formally and moved to Taj Mahal in Delhi, and was fortunate to be in the opening teams of Kafe Fontana and the renovated Machan and Ricks. At his next posting in Goa, he opened Morisco (a seafood restaurant), II Camino (an Italian restaurant) and Fishtail (an open-air barbeque eatery). It was here that he discovered himself as a chef, allowing time and effort to develop a style distinctively his own.
His next challenge was the Radisson Blu MBD Hotel Noida, his main contribution being the creative elements at R.E.D. (Rare Eastern Dining) and Made in India. Having missed cooking at the range, he moved to Boston where he opened the restaurant BanQ, which won numerous awards. He also had the distinction of cooking at the James Beard House, NY, of which he is an honorary member. With a new menu planned by him, Kashmir – an Indian restaurant won the Best of Boston award in 2010. After five intensely challenging years in the US, I am back in the country as the Senior Executive Chef of the Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach.