A sneak peek into Harry’s Lunchbox
A candid conversation with Harish Closepet on his family powered food adventure, to his stint on MasterChef India
Harish Closepet, better known (and even more so popularly) as Harry's Lunchbox, is a skilled chef, Co-Founder of Itsy Bitsy (a well known arts and crafts store) and a MasterChef India 2023 contestant. With a background in civil engineering, his culinary journey began in Singapore, exploring the vibrant palette of Indian cuisine. Now, at the age of 58, his Instagram page, "Harry's Lunchbox," boasts over 600 thousand followers, featuring mouth-watering and health-conscious recipes. His story exemplifies the boundless connection between family, passion and the art of cooking, promising more delightful adventures as he continues his MasterChef journey.
1. What inspired you to start "Harry's Lunchbox" and share your recipes on Instagram?
For as long as I can remember, I've taken joy in preparing special meals for my daughters. On the last day of my younger daughter's college, she floated the idea of sharing my meal ideas with a wider audience. And so, "Harry's Lunchbox" was born on Instagram. An outlet to not only showcase the delicious and creative meals I prepare but also to offer a helping hand to those navigating the sometimes challenging task of packing appealing and nutritious lunches. It's become a space where we share our passion for homemade delights and hope to inspire and assist others in making their lunchtime experiences more enjoyable and stress-free.
2. Could you tell us more about your background in civil engineering and how you transitioned into the culinary world?
Back when I was in college studying civil engineering, I found myself taking on the role of the unofficial chef for my hostel friends. Even though my time in civil engineering was relatively short-lived, the experience left a lasting impact. As I ventured into different areas of interest, my love for cooking remained a constant. Surprisingly, the skills and lessons I picked up during my civil engineering days became a foundation that has continued to support me, contributing to both my personal and culinary growth.
3. How did you come up with the name "Harry's Lunchbox" for your culinary venture?
While I was in Australia, I went by the nickname "Harry." It was a moniker that held a special place in my heart. While brainstorming ideas for our lunchbox venture, I proposed the idea of incorporating my nickname. At that time (and even today), "Harry's Lunchbox" seemed cool, fun and a perfect fit for my personality. That suggestion sparked enthusiasm, and we decided to move forward with it.
4. Could you share some of the key principles that guide your approach to creating healthy and flavourful dishes?
In every dish of mine, I make it a point to include a good dose of protein. I believe in achieving a balance of different elements in a meal—carbs, protein and nutrition. When it comes to flavour, I find it's all about embracing your personal style and being adventurous with ingredients. And having a grasp on the chemistry of food makes it easier for me to fuse ingredients in a way that brings out the right flavours. For me, a well-rounded dish not only provides nourishment but also delights the taste buds with a harmonious combination of textures and tastes.
5. What motivated you to audition for MasterChef India at the age of 58, and what was the experience like?
The driving force behind my decision were my daughters. Their encouragement was rooted in the belief that the world should witness my culinary skills. And while participating in MasterChef proved to be both challenging and incredible, it was a crucible of experiences that not only expanded my cooking repertoire but also provided valuable lessons and insights. The entire adventure, from audition to competition, turned out to be a transformative and enriching chapter in my journey.
6. How has your journey on MasterChef India impacted your culinary career and "Harry's Lunchbox"?
The MasterChef journey has been a game-changer for me, offering a wealth of learning experiences in terms of new cooking techniques and the art of working within tight timeframes. It has not only boosted my skills but has also instilled a newfound confidence in my abilities. I now find myself eagerly anticipating for and embracing new opportunities that come my way. And the knowledge gained from the platform of MasterChef is something I'm enthusiastic about incorporating into my lunchbox recipes.
7. Can you describe a memorable moment or dish from your MasterChef India experience?
The highlight of my MasterChef journey was, undeniably, the moment the judges showered praise on one of my dishes named Pepper Delight . This particular recipe held a special place in my heart, as it was a dish I was determined to excel at, and fortunately, it turned out to be my best performance. The overwhelming joy and satisfaction I felt in that moment were beyond words. It was a validation of my efforts and a gratifying realisation that hard work and passion could truly lead to success.
8. How do you balance managing Itsy Bitsy's 36 stores with your passion for cooking and creating recipes for "Harry's Lunchbox"?
Itsy Bitsy holds a special place in my heart as it stands as one of my most significant ventures. Co-founded by my wife, Rashmi Closepet, and I, it has been an incredible journey spanning 19 years. Managing Itsy Bitsy has allowed me to hone my expertise in business operations. What makes this all the more seamless is the creative spirit that runs in our family. Both Itsy Bitsy and my culinary ventures thrive on creativity, and our familial knack for creativity makes the management of these ventures a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.
9. What are some of your plans and aspirations for "Harry's Lunchbox" and other culinary adventures in the future?
The direction of our culinary endeavours lies in the hands of my daughter, Isha. Our primary focus is on providing practical solutions to individuals seeking inspiration for packing healthy lunchboxes. As long as we continue offering useful insights and solutions to our audience, both Isha and I find fulfilment in our venture, Harry's Lunchbox. Looking ahead, we are eager to explore new and innovative avenues together, whilethe goal remains to continue sharing our passion for creative and healthy meal solutions with the community.
10. How has your daughter, Isha, influenced your culinary journey and the dishes you create for "Harry's Lunchbox"?
Isha plays a pivotal role as the driving force behind our page. While I contribute ideas, she brings them to life through her exceptional videography skills. The synergy between my cooking and her videography is the cornerstone of our success. Beyond the camera, the feedback and encouragement from my entire family, who eagerly taste and critique my dishes, are invaluable. Their constant motivation pushes me to continually improve and strive for culinary excellence. Together, as a family team, we are dedicated to creating engaging content and delivering delightful culinary experiences to our audience.