The man who revolutionised cookery shows on television talks about his daughters, how cooking can be made easy and, why family comes first. Here's an exclusive interview with Sanjeev Kapoor.
By Shashwathi Bhanukumar
As a child, who grew up in the 90s, I remember my father hooked to the television show Khana Khazana, which went on to become the longest-running cookery show in Asia! Often, when we think of food and cooking, the first name that comes to mind is, of course, Sanjeev Kapoor. He brought the kitchen into our homes every week and we would wait for the next episode with the same enthusiasm with which he used to cook on-screen.
Now, we watch his channel Food Food, with the same kind of excitement that we used to watch him two decades ago — very little seems to have changed. Sanjeev Kapoor has been the reason why many of us like experimenting with food. After all, we learned from the best.
Here, in conversation with ParentCircle, he talks about parenting, the power of the Internet and the advice his daughters give him!
How was it when you were growing up?
My parents were like other regular parents, who want the best for their child. They were very good parents. They taught us all the good things in life in terms of the right values, encouraged us in studies and everything else that we wanted to do in life. We were very lucky.
What are the values they brought you up with?
My parents inculcated all the important values in us — truthfulness, honesty, hard work, humility, being respectful to others — by actually following them. They taught us to treat everyone equally, be it a poor person or an animal. They did not say these things for the sake for preaching, rather we learnt by watching what they themselves practised.
How did your parents react when you told them that you wanted to be a chef, a unheard of profession those days?
They asked me if I was sure of my decision and whether I had thought through what I was planning to do. By then, my parents were aware of my thought processes, why I take decisions the way I do, and so on. Of course, there was resistance too — from my friends, neighbours, and a lot of other people. But, not from my parents. When I told them I was sure of my decision, they just said, 'Then, don’t worry about what anyone else says. If you are sure, then do what you want to do'.
Did you always have an interest in cooking? Did you help your mom out in the kitchen?
I actually did not know who a chef was; I think I did know, but not as a profession. My motivation was to do something different. Yes, I used to help my mom in the kitchen and so did my brother, but then, he became a chartered accountant. So, taking up cooking as a profession was not something I envisioned right from my childhood. I knew that I wanted to do something interesting, something different and that is what I did.
What kind of role did your parents play in the way that your career was shaped?
They have played a very important role. All the confidence, all the good things, all the values – I imbibed from my parents. For instance, my dad was always keen on learning new things. So, that also influenced me. They have been a big support.
Tell us about your daughters.
The older one, Rachita is 23 years of age. She has studied law and is working with me. The younger one, Kriti is 20, and graduated just a few weeks ago. She studied Math and Statistics. She is also a national level athlete (sprinter).
Do you experiment with cooking at home too? Do your daughters join in?
In the weekends, if all of us are at home, we do that a lot; we do cook together.
Are your daughters also interested in cooking and trying out new dishes?
Maybe not so much, but they do participate from time to time.
So, what is that one dish of theirs that you like the best?
They recently cooked a Thai meal, which I enjoyed a lot. They do not ask me for my inputs and do everything on their own.
What is the favourite dish of your household?
There is no one favourite dish of the family. We have many. We like biryani, laksa and Thai curry. There are many more favourite dishes actually.
What advice do your daughters come to you for?
It could be anything related to their career, courses or even holidays. They talk to me about everything.
How do you think parenting has changed from 20 years ago to now?
I think today’s parents are more involved with their kids. They also know more about them. Earlier, I feel kids were given more freedom. When I say freedom, I mean things like — my parents would never come to my school, since there were hardly any events and they would not be too involved in the courses we did, what learned on a day-to-day basis and, so on. But, nowadays, parents pay much more attention to what is happening in their childrens' lives.
What has been your favourite dad-daughter moment?
Every time I am with my daughters, I am very happy. It is a joy to spend time together. These are the moments that I treasure; there is nothing like, 'Oh my god, it is her first birthday'. For a fairly long time, I have been busy with my work and I travel a lot. So, I treasure all the moments that I get with them.
What are the values with which you have brought up your daughters?
You know, even my mom lives with us. So, whatever values I was brought up with – honesty, kindness, humility – these are the same values that we have inculcated in our daughters.
Have you had any funny or embarrassing parenting moments?
I don’t keep a record of such things (laughs). There are hundreds of them…bahut saare hote hain (there are many). Without these moments, there is no fun… right?
You are one of the first chefs to use the medium of television. What do you think of the power of internet these days to talk about healthy cooking?
It is just phenomenal. As soon as I launched my TV show, I launched my website too. So, we have over 20 million people online, whether it is Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube…everywhere. So, it is a huge influence…very huge.
Chef, Entrepreneur, Author, Dad — what role do you enjoy the most and why?
I enjoy my role as a family person, because these memories that we make are priceless.
How do you think dads can be actively involved in kitchen duties?
I think, fathers can be involved right from the planning stage — what to eat, what ingredients to buy, where and how to buy. They should go to the market, spend time chooseing the ingredients and then, also be involved in the execution. It is a good idea to start by committing their mind to it first.
Can you give working moms/dads tips to spend less time in the kitchen?
Make a weekly menu for the whole family — what they like, what they don’t like,so on. Make a creative menu, display it prominently in the kitchen or where everyone can see it. This will help everyone get involved. Then, you start respecting each other’s choices. Once this is done, half the job is done. When you plan and prepare ahead, you know what to shop for and can delegate too. You can create a shopping list and prepare ahead of time. Often, we decide what to cook at the last minute and then realise that many ingredients are not available at home.
What is your favourite dish to cook for your family?
I like to cook what they want to eat. It is not what I like to cook for them; it is what they like to eat that day. Usually, I cook over the weekend, when the whole family is together, since weekdays are very hectic.
Any advice that you would like to give parents?
Learn from your children. Believe in them and learn from them. They know much more than what we did; we think that we know more, but they are much smarter. Respect their smartness and respect them.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor also gave us two amazing recipes to try at home:
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