Epic night at Khazana!

Things I love – Family, food, music and friends. So when my good ol’ buddy Chef Montu Saini, Executive Chef at the Rashtrapati Bhavan was in Canada on a personal invitation from Canada PM Justin Trudeau, I didn’t wait to invite him to my restaurant Khazana at Brampton. Montu took it to the next level by making it an exclusive dinner for the world’s top presidential chefs! #clubdeschefsdeschefs.

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The hallowed guest list:

  • Katie Brown – Executive Chef to the Prime Minister of Canada
  • Neil Dhawan – Chef to the Prime Minister of Canada
  • Cristeta Comerford – Chef to the President of USA
  • Mark Flanagan – Chef to Her Majesty, Queen of UK
  • Martin Kristoffersen – Chef to Her Majesty, Queen of Denmark
  • Taigo Lepik – Chef to the President of Republic of Estonia
  • Isto Tahvanainen – Chef to the President of Republic of Finland
  • Bernard Vaussion – Chef to the President of Republic of France
  • Maurice Alexis – Chef to the President of Gabon
  • Ulrich Kerz – Chef to the Chancellor of Germany
  • Ingimar Ingimarsson – Chef to the President of Iceland
  • Fabrizio Boca – Sous Chef, Chef to the President of Italy
  • Franck Panier – Chef to His Highness, Grand Duke of Luxemburg
  • Christian Garcia – Chef to His Highness, Prince Albert II of Monaco
  • Jose Roca – Chef to the Prime Minister of Spain
  • Magnus Ake Rehbäck – Chef to His Majesty, King of Sweden

 

Meanwhile the franchisees, my team at the restaurant swung into action. The excitement in the air was palpable.My brief: Once in a lifetime opportunity. Nothing but the best in everything, from food and service to hospitality within the stipulated timeframe! And they delivered! From Signature dishes like Pakhtooni Barra, Harripa Paneer, Trio Tikka, Afghani Malai Tikka, Bhatti ka Murgh, Boti Tikka for starters and mains like Country Chicken a.k.a Puran Singh da Tariwala Murgh, Nalli Rogan Josh, Makhanwala Paneer and 24 Karat Dal to the perfect breads, rice dishes and exquisite desserts!

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I am overwhelmed with pride, kudos to my team’s efficiency for the spectacular show. The wonderful feedback that I’ve been getting on a personal front takes me to cloud nine.

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Thank you and keep up the good work! Loads of appreciation.

As for my friend Montu, you make us all proud!

‘You have been awarded a Padma Shri’

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25th January, 7.02 a.m, I was still in bed and my phone was vibrating by my bed.  As a rule, I never keep my phone by my bed side, don’t know why I had kept it that day. Also, it is always on silent mode. Alyona was up and about as she was getting ready to go for her UK visa, she heard it and got me to pick it up. The caller identified himself as Mr Chauhan, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, he said ‘Badhai ho. Bharat sarkar ne aapko Padma Shri dene ka nirnay kiya hain.’ I thanked him and disconnected the call. Alyona asked, a trifle worried as only during emergencies does my phone ring at that hour. I reassured her that everything was fine and the call was to tell me that I had received the Padma Shri. Now the first thing that came to my mind was that, someone was playing a prank, after all one doesn’t expect government offices to start functioning so early in the morning! I then checked the number on truecaller and sure enough it showed up Mr Chauhan’s name with the right designation. But I needed more proof. I logged on to the Ministry of Home Affairs website and Mr Chauhan was featured there as Joint Secretary. As a last measure, I called him back. I told him I was calling to reconfirm the news. He laughed and said it is confirmed, it’s not a prank, you have been awarded a Padma Shri. Now I knew it was happening for real!

In the last 6-7 years, friends, well-wishers and people I know would ask me when I was winning the Padma Shri, honestly I didn’t have an answer to the when, because there have been very few instances of people in the culinary category being awarded, a matter that has come up at many forums I’ve attended. I have also spoken about this at many high end forums about the need of recognition for chefs. Year after year awards had been given for excellence in the field of arts and science and for me, cooking is definitely one of the greatest art and science. So I won’t say that the news came to me as a shock, somewhere deep down I was expecting it to happen sooner or later. Interestingly for the last few years, every 25th January, I would get many calls telling me that my name should’ve been on the list and that I should have got the Padma Shri.

This 25th January, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing for another reason. As my mother always said, you will get what you deserve. Patience pays!

5 fascinating facts about inflight food

They say a lot of things in life are mediocre and love shouldn’t be one of them. Being a chef and foodie I believe the word love can easily be replaced by food in this context. Food should never be mediocre – even when you are on a flight. Being on the panel for Singapore airlines for more than a decade I can assure you that serving food 30,000 feet above ground level is a different ball game all together. There are a number of challenges you need to prepare for to make sure every flyer has a great experience – and this struggle is something a lot of people are unaware about. So here are 5 first hand inside facts about the fascinating world of inflight food.

Taste test

Your taste buds are almost 30% less sensitive at that altitude than at ground level and that is the main reason why in-flight food doesn’t taste as good as regular restaurant food. To overcome this chefs have been known to taste food for an in-flight menu in pressurized cabins, similar to how it would be on a flight and rework the dishes till the desired taste is reached.

Process and protocol

Inflight food has way more processes and protocols than restaurant food. The production base, location, mass production facility, portion sizes, cooking techniques, storing and reheating temperatures, transportation, flight destination, kind and number of passengers and the types of meal options – are all factors that need to be considered. For an in-flight service, everything needs to be planned down to the T. Since all these processes are interlinked, one small glitch could blotch up the entire flying experience for the customer and you definitely don’t want that!

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Time lapse

There is always a big gap between when the food is made and ultimately reaches the passenger. So you need to think about the food being on flight for a couple of hours before being served to different passengers at different intervals. Menu planning involves carefully selecting ingredients and techniques that will remain delicious and look good even after going through all the processes and procedures.

Heated situation

Not much cooking actually happens inside an aircraft, mainly because you can’t reach that kind of temperature with an open flame inside an aircraft. Nothing that will change form, when reheated or needs extreme high temperatures to cook, will work. For example – Leafy greens like spinach won’t retain the bright green colour, prawns might get chewy and deep-fried food like potato chips etc. won’t be crisp like they are supposed to be.

Pilot plot

This one is probably the most fascinating fact – pilots on a flight are served different meals and aren’t allowed to share. This is done as a precaution to prevent food poisoning, allergy or sickness from the food. Even in the times of auto pilot mode, at no point in a flight you want both your pilots to be unwell.

The next time you are on a flight these thoughts will definitely cross your mind and make you look at airline food in a whole new light!

Lastly I must add that if you ever fly Singapore Airlines make sure you try the Ruchithali which is something new we have come up with for economy class flyers to experience the fabulousness of Indian food the way we do in India – even when they are 30,000 feet about ground!

Till I write again

Happy flying, happy cooking and happy eating!