Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, has hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best-selling cookbooks, restaurateur & winner of several culinary awards. He is unarguably one of the most well-known faces of Indian television.
He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through the power of cooking to become self-sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried and tested recipes, videos, articles, tips, trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.
He was a normal student – studious and by God’s grace, always among the high rankers. His parents have been his biggest support in all his decisions. He says "My mother is a wonderful cook and even my late father used to love to churn out new delicacies in his spare time. And since he was a bank official and had a transferable job, we travelled quite a bit around the country and were subjected to different cuisines. None of us were finicky, but when it came to appreciating good food we all could do that with ease. Since we tasted foods of many cities in a short span, my taste buds were honed from childhood.”
From childhood he had this unique urge of doing something different and going in the opposite direction as compared to others. He always had this ambition to do something different, pursue a career that no one in his family had ventured into! After great elaborations he decided on becoming an architect and started his admission process. This was plan A. And then, on a friend’s suggestion, he made a Plan B and applied for admission for Hotel Management at Institute of Hotel Management in PUSA, New Delhi. He got a call from IHM PUSA and straight away finished the admission formalities, knowing little, that he was shaping his destiny!
Life in IHM, PUSA was not difficult but it sure was more work than what he had anticipated it to be. Taking cooking as a career was not his childhood ambition. It just happened. After graduation and till mid-1992, he had donned different hats as chef in ITDC Group at various properties. ITDC was the largest chain of hotels in India at that time. He had been selected by the Oberoi group, but he did not join as they offered him flight kitchen! Taj group was a good option as he had done his training there but it had different set of rules for students from PUSA and Dadar Catering College.
He had developed a fine sense of entrepreneurship while his stint at Shamiana, first upscale Indian restaurant in Wellington, New Zealand. In 1992, he returned to India from New Zealand and worked in Centaur Juhu, Mumbai as an Executive Chef, the youngest to have ever made it to this level.
During his tenure in Centaur, he received the offer to host Khana Khazana, a cookery show, the first of its kind. This was 1993 & he did not know then that the history of Indian Television was about to get a chapter on India’s longest running show in all categories, that Khana Khazana would be aired nonstop in 150+ countries & be awarded for many consecutive years!
He adds “It was the early days of television and I had a foresight while doing this programme that paid off and Khana Khazana became a household name. Women, in big and small towns would sit with note books and pens to write recipes. Those recipes were passed from mothers to daughters. In 1995, I became the youngest chef to be bestowed with the ‘Best Executive Chef’ award by H&FS.” He further adds “Since then, the only mission for me is to make Indian cuisine number one in the world. I’ll not rest till I make it numero uno and empower most women to be self-reliant through the language of food.”
By now he was independent and owned his company Khana Khazana India Pvt Ltd. Immediately, he got the idea of doing one restaurant in Dubai by the same name. Khazana restaurant opened in 1998 and became a runaway success right from the word go. Now, it is more than 2 decades old and still is the reference point for many to open a Sanjeev Kapoor restaurant.
He says “I am glad that people are still in awe of the food of this place! Today, I have more brands under my restaurant vertical Sanjeev Kapoor Restaurants Pvt Ltd. These include The Yellow Chilli, Signature, Sura Vie, Grain Of Salt, India Green.” While the restaurant business was taking a good shape, another pot was bubbling on the burner for him! The publisher, Popular Prakashan was doing e-books and using modern retail chain effectively to strengthen this vertical. Sanjeev’s first book ‘Khazana of Indian Recipes’ was done and it changed the panorama of doing culinary books.Book after book followed & till the last count, with all big and small book titles, it is more than 150 books in various languages.
His first office in Juhu, Mumbai was setup. It was a very small office but had a dedicated team with resolution to do something great. At this time, his dear friend and batch mate came into the organisation. They made a core team with dedicated chefs and editors and it was time to fly! Around this same time, Khana Khazana Productions came into existence as a company. They started producing their own TV shows, one of them being ‘A Touch of Turmeric’ with Zee TV and ‘Rasoi Khajina’ with Doordarshan followed just after.
Sanjeev says “In 2001, when people had not heard of many reality shows, we did our first Kitchen Queen contest for Zee where we organised live shows & shoots in cities like Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Delhi and Lucknow. There was massive excitement when India’s first TV Kitchen Queen was crowned!” He says “As we grew, there was a need for a new office. The team became bigger & work in every vertical expanded. Within one year, we were able to locate a larger place in Andheri West. We shifted into our first self-owned office. And I knew that with a big office now big things would happen!”
Immediately after moving into the new place, he was contacted by CNN to do a show with renowned host Richard Quest. Rachel Ray in US followed, and he got the opportunity of a lifetime to be seen in the House of Commons London and in White House. CNN needed a face from this side of the world for another programme of theirs called ‘Fusion Journeys.’ He also travelled to Copenhagen to do a show with the world-renowned Chef Rene Redzepi of the world’s most prestigious restaurant – Noma.
He adds “Government of India bestowed me with the ‘Best Chef of the Country’ honour. Indian Television Academy (ITA) kept honouring me year after year for the ‘Best Cookery show’ award.”
“If I’m allowed to be immodest, I can say with little pride that I’m being successful in giving a face to the profession of chefs and they have been able to come out of kitchens and get recognised. Above this I would rate my efforts of bringing Indian cuisine to the forefront on
the global arena as my prime achievement.
It was time to give back to the audience the immense love that I had got over the years. To empower women to be financially independent by working on something they are passionate about – food and cooking. Thus, the new initiative Wonderchef was born! Business had taken off and today Wonderchef cookware and appliances are available online as well in retail shops all across India.
As my popularity grew, more and more brands sought association with me. I was always choosy in my selection of products for endorsement. Endorsement done by me are few but powerful and as the proof of the pudding is in its eating, here also, the brands repeated me over the years. Some of the brands endorsed by me have been Tata Sampann, Tata Salt, Daawat Rice, Tata I Shakti, Sugarfree Natura, Cargill Foods, Surf Excel, Sleek Kitchens, etc.
The ultimate was waiting to happen. My dream of starting a TV Channel dedicated to food and lifestyle. FoodFood was born in January 2011. Today it reaches over million homes in India and countries in the Middle East, Canada and the US.
I would say do not be a miser in dreaming big. Work hard with sincerity and lots of dedication as there are no shortcuts to success. Also, keep on trying new, different things on a daily basis to come up in life.”