Finally the most awaited month of the year has come. We are about 2 weeks away from Diwali, but IFN has been preparing for the festivity since September itself. From bringing a variety of sweet and savoury snacks to your table to lining up a list of recommended places for you to visit, well, it's been busy. But, with the grandest of festivities in sight, the only way we could match the enthusiasm and fervour that comes with the jubilation, is to celebrate it with someone who is just as zealous. And who better than chef Ranveer Brar, who never fails to light up the room from the moment he steps in? With all his trivia on food, stories of his recent expeditions and rejoicing with family, this Diwali is a special one at IFN, all thanks to Ranveer Brar.
In conversation with the ever-charming and humble chef Brar, we chat about how exciting his journey has been from Masterchef India to Modern Love and how he plans to spend his Diwali among many other interesting and winsome news.
Edited excerpts from the interview.
Chef Ranveer Brar is a name everyone knows, be it from Masterchef India, your own Youtube channel or your most recent series on Amazon Prime, Modern Love Mumbai. How has your journey been so far, not only in the food world, but also experimenting with other genres? From being the youngest executive chef in the country to my sojourn at Boston and then back to Mumbai, it's actually been a home-coming of sorts having learnt priceless lessons en route! My culinary education began with Munir Ustad, a Kebab vendor on the streets of Lucknow. Later on I received my formal education from IHM, Lucknow, after which I joined the Taj group in Delhi. This is how the story begins. In due time I joined the Accor Group as an executive chef at Novotel which led me to my television break, enabling me to reach out to larger audiences and share my experiences with food and other stories with them. From here onwards I've managed to balance TV appearances with restaurant openings and menu curations, some in India, some abroad. Even on the sea for that matter, as I had pitched in my efforts to curate the Indian menu for Royal Caribbean's cruise liner. As an artist in and out of the kitchen, I have constantly looked for various mediums of expression, irrespective of whether the result is on a plate or the screen. Acting offers had been coming my way for a while but Rajveer's character in Hansal Mehta's 'Baai' (the second episode of Modern Love Mumbai) was the perfect launchpad for me, in my opinion. In an overview, I'd say this journey has been pretty interesting and blessed overall.
Do you recall any experiences you may have encountered in your journey that has taught you a very important lesson and you hold in high regard even to this day? As a matter of fact I do. Back in Boston, I worked with a fantastic team to open an award-winning restaurant. Sadly, due to certain circumstances and the economy, I was forced to shut shop and return to India. While my days in Boston were filled with strife, they also taught me how important it is to keep moving forward and that when you create a positive impact on people's lives, kindness always comes back to you in unexpected ways. One other belief that was firmly rooted during these times was that I may not have a kitchen, but the skill I learnt will always be with me. And as long as I believe in food and my skill, I will always find my way out of difficult times.
Could you perhaps give us a glimpse of any new and exciting projects that you may be currently involved in? Like everyone else, I am super happy that travel has opened up again. On that note, my wife and I had a fantastic trip to Finland last month. Scandinavian culture and cuisine has fascinated me for a long time and I am glad I could tick that one off the list. Talking about my projects, we also worked on a very unique food and travel show, 'Chala Jata Hoon' which rests on my channel. So watch the space and stay tuned for more videos! Additionally, I will be curating and creating a unique dining experience and philosophy at the Bangalore International Airport in association with BIAL (Bangalore International Airport Limited), which will kickstart sometime next year.
You've travelled quite a lot in pursuit of knowledge, experience or business. In all your expeditions, no matter where, is there a checklist you follow? For instance, trying their lesser-known dishes, picking their most used ingredient as a souvenir or learning how to make a dish. I don't make a checklist per se, but yes, I do read up quite a lot with regards to the place's culture and culinary history, influences and so on. And if I have the time, I also factor in the street food of the place as I believe that's where the soul of the place is! Indeed, I look for local ingredients too, they are priceless. For instance, I picked up oregano, sumac and saffron from my trip to Turkey. Likewise, during every trip to Lucknow, a quick stop by the Pansari shops is a must!
Is there any chef or celebrity that you wish to collaborate with soon in the future? I would love to collaborate with Padmashree chef Imtiaz Qureshi and Gordon Ramsay some day.
What are the three things about the festival of lights that you love the most? This is the time I look forward to spending more time with my family and friends. Now that you've mentioned it, cooking special dishes in general and preparing sweets and pakwaan with my mom is another major highlight of the festival. Of late, I and Ishaan (chef Brar's son) have taken on the task of decorating the house too! It gives me some extra time to bond with my son.
Name a Diwali sweet that you cannot imagine the festival without? That has to be laddoo. And definitely shakkar pare. I cannot imagine Diwali if these mithais are missing on the table.
What are the top 5 items in your to-do list for Diwali this year? 1. At the top of the list is spending more time with Ishaan, I've already started listing out the stuff the pyo-putar duo (father-son duo)—as I call ourselves—could do around the house. 2. Given my travel schedule (that has picked up again post pandemic), I am really looking forward to being at home for Diwali this year. 3. Create at least one new and unique recipe. So stay tuned to my YouTube channel for that. 4. Catch up with friends. 5. Try to finish off some long pending spring/autumn cleaning, both at home and within me.
Natasha Kittur is an aspiring writer. Her love for anything with cheese and spice is profound, but a white sauce pasta always tops her list. In her free time you will catch her reading or watching crime books and shows or go on and on about psychological experiments and theories. She aims to write a book in the fictional genre someday.