Dishing Up a Storm
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Chef Vikas Khanna fields accusations of choosing drama over culinary excellence.
The set, upon entry, resembles a godown of discarded items – with tables, wires and wooden planks strewn all over. What lies beyond could be mistaken for a gourmet store. The massive makeshift room is lined with shelves that hold a variety of cooking ingredients such as fresh vegetables and fruits, olives, blueberries, tahina, icing sugar, chocolates and cheese among other items.
Meet Mr Chef
In the double storey hall, chefs Sanjeev Kapoor, Kunal Kapoor and Vikas Khanna stand under the spotlight, addressing the contestants during the shoot of MasterChef India, season 3. At work, it is interesting to watch Khanna play second fiddle to Sanjeev.
Born in Amritsar, Khanna moved to the US in his 20s. Today a Michelin-Star chef, Khanna's restaurant, Junoon, is a popular Indian eatery in New York. The 42-year-old celebrity chef has hosted a banquet for American president Barack Obama and worked alongside the likes of Gordon Ramsay. He has also featured on The Martha Stewart Show and been a judge on Hell's Kitchen. His role as a judge on MasterChef India is his latest assignment, for the second consecutive season.
Over two decades old and originating in the UK, MasterChef debuted in India four years ago when its popular Australian version premiered on Star World. The high standards and stiff competition kept the English-speaking viewers hooked. In 2010, Star purchased rights to the format for a desi version, with Akshay Kumar, Chef Ajay Chopra (executive chef of Westin hotel in Mumbai) and Kunal Kapoor (executive sous chef at Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon) as judges. The show has since had two seasons, neither of which were as successful as the ongoing season.
The show follows what has become a success formula for reality shows — drama and sob stories of the contestants, transforming the show into a tear-jerker. Khanna has especially roused critics' ire. With quality and technique at the centre of his work, it is surprising that he should compromise it for a TV show.