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“My mother always encouraged me to live my dream”

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Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor
He’s clearly the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine, with many firsts to his name. Recipient of the Best Chef of India award by the Government of India, Kapoor was the face of the very successful TV show Khana Khazana for 17 years. The show was broadcast in 120 countries and boasted over 500 million viewers. In 2011 he launched FoodFood, the largest food channel on You Tube, and long before it became fashionable to go online, he launched sanjeevkapoor.com in 1996. Bestselling author of more than 150 titles, face behind Wonderchef, a company that sells premium cookware and appliances, restaurateur with over 70 restaurants dotted around the world, host of the current season of Master Chef India, and soon to launch a mobile-first food startup, Sanjeev Kapoor’s is a success story like no other.
Can you imagine it all began in mother Urmil’s kitchen where she would give him a ball of dough to play with? “Not play dough,” Kapoor laughs, “but real atta. I would try and roll out chapattis and cut them with a tea saucer to make perfect rounds.” He recalls his father Surendra and elder brother Rejeev also trying their hand at cooking, especially on the weekends. “My mother is vegetarian and if we wanted to eat non-vegetarian fare we had to cook it ourselves.”
Desire to be different
Crunch time came when it was time to go to college. “All my friends were making predictable choices like engineering or architecture but I just had to do something different.” Kapoor opted to do a degree in hotel management. “In those days for a man to choose to be a professional chef was not just different, it was a bizarre career choice!” And this is where his parents support—especially his mother’s was invaluable. “So many of my friends and relatives back then said ‘dimaag kaharab hai’ but my mother stood by me like a rock. She simply said, “Don’t listen to them, just listen to your heart.’” Even today, Kapoor follows this dictum, “'I've never been bothered by people’s perceptions of me. How I perceive myself is all that matters.”
Mommy knows best
This celebrity chef often exchanges recipes with his mother. “Her alu jeera is amazing. As are her pressure cooked vegetables. It’s not just me, but all my friends think so too. I don’t know how but its perfection every single time. There could be ten dishes on the table, but these get cleaned out first! ” Three years ago, Kapoor published Cooking With Love: Vegetarian Recipes From My Mother\'s Kitchen. It contains prized family recipes by his mother and mother-in-law. “When the book was being put together, my mother cooked in my kitchen with three chefs working beside, recreating all her recipes. But their dishes tasted so different from what she made, whether it was the two extra tablespoons of water she added or just unke haath ki baat, I will never know.”
Brother Rajeev is a strategy consultant and far removed from the bustle of the world this charming and surprisingly unassuming chef inhabits. No wonder he figured No.31 in the list of 100 of India’s Most Trusted persons in the March 2010 issue of Reader’s Digest. For us at Nykaa though, Sanjeev Kapoor is Numero Uno.
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