Indian celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor is casting his culinary prowess over The Yellow Chilli – one of four restaurants in the spectacular new Gran Meliá Arusha, in the heart of Tanzania, Africa. Savour chats to the star to find out all about his fine flavours and ambition to make Indian cuisine “numero uno” on the world’s culinary map.
Where are you originally from?
Ambala in Punjab, North India.
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
I was always someone who loved taking chances and going against the tide. So, at those times, when everybody was preparing for engineering and medical, I wanted to be an architect. Then, just by a twist of fate, I applied for Hotel Management at The Institute of Hotel Management in PUSA, New Delhi, and my life changed.
How long have you been a chef?
I would say not long enough, as I still haven’t achieved my dream of making Indian cuisine, ‘numero uno’ on the world culinary map.
Where did you train to be a chef?
After graduating from IHM PUSA, New Delhi, till mid-1992, I had donned different hats as a chef in ITDC Group at various properties. I had developed a fine sense of entrepreneurship during my stint at Shamiana, the first upmarket Indian restaurant in Wellington, New Zealand.
In 1992, I returned to India to join Centaur Hotel in Juhu, Mumbai – as the youngest Executive Chef ever. Soon after, I received the offer to host Khana Khazana on Indian television and little did I know that I would be creating history, thereafter.
Why do you enjoy being a chef?
I get to travel to the most exotic, untouched and mystic places on the face of Earth.
What is your guilty food pleasure?
Vada Pav [a vegetarian fast food dish] on the streets of Mumbai.
In what place are you at your happiest?
Even at the expense of sounding clichéd, I would say HOME.
Describe your food style in five words.
Simple Indian food made desirable.
Tell us about the menu at Yellow Chilli.
The Yellow Chilli houses a menu which is a carnival of recipes curated by a skilful team that I’m absolutely proud of. The menu consists of a variety of dishes that I put together from my travels across India, some of them being my signature creations. Thus, it provides our guests a feel of travelling across India with all five senses and a plate. A beautiful extension is that the menu has exciting add-ons and whichever region The Yellow Chilli makes its home, there is an adaption of the local cuisine by it.
What dishes can guests expect to find?
Murgh Makai ka Raab, Rumani Paneer Kararey, Tandoori Makhni Chicken, Dum Naryali Prawns, Hyderabadi Gosht Biryani, The Electric Kulfi – we’ve got it all! I would say that your expectations will cease, but the menu won’t.
What’s your signature dish?
Lalla Mussa Dal [a creamy lentil stew].
What are your favourite ingredients to work with and why?
Love, smile and salt. I needn’t answer why.
What is your ambition for Yellow Chilli?
The Yellow Chilli stands for ‘great Indian food, endearing ambience and warm hospitality,’ and we continue adhering to that in the future. We work more with a pull rather than push mechanism and encourage more genuine, filtered franchisees. The future looks bright and exciting.
Do you have any personal ambitions?
I love playing the drums. I might just give it a try in the music industry now.
What has been the most memorable part of your career so far?
There are many to list, but, I’ll settle with these two as of now: cooking for the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and receiving the prestigious Padma Shri award.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
From Serengeti safaris to rejuvenating spa days, read all about what Gran Meliá Arusha has to offer.