A pinch of this, a drop of that — it’s instinctive cooking, so common in Indian kitchens, that celebrity chef Kunal Kapur advocates in his new book, A Chef in Every Home. One of the judges on the hit shows MasterChef India and Junior MasterChef India, he says, “Most recipes in the book mention quantites in teaspoons, tablespoons, handfuls or pinches. We don’t use kitchen scales at home, so the recipes use easily understandable terms.”
By doing away with exact measurements, Kapur feels readers are forced to depend on themselves to be better cooks. “You are completely involved in the cooking process without having to worry about the measurements. It induces confidence,” he says.
A strong debut
Kapur is presently the Executive Sous Chef at The Leela Ambience Gurgaon Hotel & Residences in India and has worked for Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. His book, published by Random House India, is on the stands now with 125 recipes including everything from bruschetta and hummus to more complex dishes such as paan supari pannacotta.
“The book draws inspiration from my time on MasterChef India. Being a chef for more than a decade had me thinking that cooking technically correct food was the right way. It was only when I saw home-style cooking on the show that I realised anyone can cook. Good food is about the right attitude and not the right spices,” says Kapur.
He can’t emphasise bonding over food enough. “This is a family cookbook. It’s about bonding with the ones you love and that is what the world needs.”
Growing up, Kapur did not know he would be a chef. Born in New Delhi in a Punjabi family, he grew up with bankers as role models. “The aspirant banker tag was always there, but unfortunately I was very bad with numbers,” he says.
When he graduated high school, somebody suggested a course in hotel management. Coming from a middle-class family, there was pressure to make something of his life and this route offered an escape.
“I was never fully aware of where I would be heading with hotel management, but I am doing what I love most,” says Kapur.
But he also learnt cooking from his family. “My first lessons were with my humble family where all men love to cook. They were the occasional Sunday cooks and I joined them every time they were in the kitchen. I remember my father’s stuffed omelettes, which he made for me every Sunday,” he says.
Kapur would sit on an upturned empty oil canister as a boy and stir the food under his father’s direction. “My father would teach me the names of the ingredients that went into the dish I was stirring. What he managed to do was teach me a glossary of ingredients that would one day become my life,” he told IANS at the book’s launch.
For Kapur, the next logical step would be to open his own restaurant. He says he has an idea, but isn’t ready to share the details yet. “I am working on a concept that will glorify an aspect of Indian cooking that has been underestimated all this while. It will be a bold step, but I like challenges.”
More importantly, Kapur dreams of bringing this concept to the UAE. He says, “I love Dubai. It’s where I want to bring my future restaurant. Eating out in the UAE is like the world coming to dinner.”