From the youngest executive chef in a 5-star hotel in India to TV personality.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
CHEF RANVEER BRAR, celebrity chef, renowned television and YouTube personality, and restaurateur, has been putting the ‘skill’ in ‘skillet’ for most of his life. “I was born and bred in Lucknow, and there really couldn’t have been a more apt place for my culinary journey to begin,” he tells me. “My first stint in a kitchen was at a pretty young age, at the Gurudwara, but I started serious cooking at around 15. I had made rajma for my mother, who was unwell, and I overheard my father praising my cooking to my mom. That sealed the deal for me, and my fate too!”
Of The Great Indian Rasoi and Health Bhi Taste Bhi fame, among many other television series, Ranveer has also won a slew of accolades and distinctions over the years, including becoming the youngest executive chef in a five-star hotel, and has even participated in high-steaks endeavours, such as judging MasterChef India in seasons four and six. “It started with culinary explorations in the streets of Lucknow, that gradually grew into a passion,” he recalls. “I’ve worked at multitudes of hotels and restaurants in various capacities, including curating the Indian cuisine counters for the Royal Caribbean International’s flagship,Voyager of the Seas. Currently I have my hands full developing my own food shows for my YouTube channel and other social media platforms, and collaborating with several brands as a culinary advisor.”
Through his various culinary successes, however, Ranveer has never forgotten the beating heart of his passion for food and cooking: “for me, food is a medium of expression. Just like for any artist, who expresses themselves through their art, so it is for me, through the food I cook. It’s basically my emotions transferred on to the plate.”
He shares more of his culinary journey with Masala, as well as the reason his endeavours have panned out so well over the years.
You’ve worn many hats in the culinary world beyond just the iconic Chef’s toque. Tell us a little about your professional career over the years.
After graduating from the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering & Nutrition, Lucknow (IHM, Lucknow) with top honours, I worked with the Taj Group of hotels in my initial years. During that time, I became the youngest executive chef in the country, and also earned the reputation of a specialist in opening restaurants.
Then I took off to Boston, where I worked with a fantastic team to open an award- winning restaurant. Sadly, an unfortunate turn of events, and the economy, forced me to return to India, but not before joining One World Hospitality Group, one of the oldest restaurants in Boston; opening a slew of five restaurants and a food truck; and setting up Boston’s first Indian catering company.
Back in Mumbai, I joined the Accor Group as the Executive Chef at Novotel. I broke into television soon after, which enabled me to reach out to a larger audience, and share my food stories with them. I have since opened several restaurants in India and abroad, or might I say, apron! In all of this, I’ll just say that God has been kind, and my love for food in its entirety has been a giver.
You host your own cooking shows, and you’ve amassed quite a following on various social media platforms, with almost 4.5 million followers on YouTube alone. What prompted you to start your own cooking blog, and what do you attribute its success to?
Social and visual media helps me express myself beyond a set format, and they allow me to showcase different content from television or other forms of media. Initially, for me, it was about absorbing information more than anything else, as you want to know what is going on. But with social media also came the freedom to communicate with the audience in real time. I am quite trend agnostic, as trends are temporary; for me it’s more important to be aware of, and sensitive to, what’s happening around us, what people need, and what works for my audience.
Above all, I believe food is the greatest source of positivity and upliftment, especially given the pandemic over the last two years. The need to self-sustain and remain sane became paramount, and it was important to stay motivated, and to motivate others. I felt it would be a great diversion to share what I know through cooking videos, seasoned with some humour.
What kind of cuisine(s) do you like best, and why?
My first loves will always be Lucknawi food and the food of Bengal, two cuisines I grew up with. Internationally, Italian is my favourite cuisine; I am intrigued by not just the myriad varieties of pasta and cheese, but also by the regional interpretations of a single dish, down to the regional ingredients that become the dish’s USP. The other cuisine I am fascinated by is Levantine in general, and Turkish in particular.
What advice would you like to give other aspiring chefs?
A quick piece of advice is to keep it simple, and play to your strengths. Experiment with what interests you, but keep working on dishes that represent your culture and your personal connect with food. Master and stick to the basics, then build on them with your creativity. And above all, cook with a smile on your lips, and a song in your heart!
PREP TIME: 20 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 25 MINUTES
• 3-4 soaked lasagne sheets
• 2 tbsp brown sugar
INGREDIENTS FOR APPLE MIXTURE :
• 4 red apples
• 1 tbsp butter
• 3 tsps powdered sugar
• 1⁄2 cup rolled oats
INGREDIENTS FOR CHEESE MIXTURE :
• 1 cup cheddar cheese
• 1⁄2 cup brown sugar
• 1 1⁄2 cups ricotta cheese
• 1⁄2 tsp cinnamon powder
• 1⁄2 tsp nutmeg powder
INGREDIENTS FOR GARNISH :
• 2 tbsps powdered sugar (for dusting)
• 1⁄2 cup walnuts
• 1 tbsp powdered sugar
• 2 tbsps butter
• 1 red apple, sliced
1. Deseed and slice the red apples.
2. Heat butter in a pan, add the apple slices, powdered sugar, and rolled oats, and toss them until the apple slices become soft. Cover and let cook for a few minutes on low flame, for 4-5 minutes.
3. To prepare the cheese mixture, in a bowl add the cheddar cheese, brown sugar, ricotta cheese, cinnamon powder, and nutmeg powder, and mix well.
4. Grease a baking dish with butter. Place a soaked lasagne sheet followed by a layer of cheese mixture. Then place a layer of the prepared red apples. Sprinkle brown sugar. Repeat till 3⁄4 of the baking dish is filled.
5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170°C for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool lightly.
6. Lightly toast the walnuts with butter and powdered sugar. Dust icing sugar over the prepared apple lasagne, and garnish with apple slices and toasted walnuts. Serve warm.
PREP TIME: 10 MINUTES
• 1⁄2 cup leftover mithai
• 1⁄2 cup milk
INGREDIENTS FOR ASSEMBLING :
• 1⁄2 cup mithai, diced
• 1⁄4 cup flavoured sev
• 2 tbsp rose syrup
• 1 tbsp sabja seeds
• 1 tsp almonds, sliced
• 1 tsp pistachios, sliced
INGREDIENTS FOR GARNISH :
• 1 tsp rose syrup
• 1 jalebi
1. Add the 1⁄2 cup leftover mithai along with the milk to a vessel, and blend well.
2. To assemble, take a tall glass and drop in the mithai pieces.
3. Top it up with flavoured sev.
4. Pour in the rose syrup.
5. Pour in the blended mithai milk.
6. Add a layer of sabja seeds over it. Sprinkle sliced almonds and pistachios.
7. Drizzle rose syrup on top, and garnish with jalebi.
8. Serve chilled.