You know him as the grounded international celebrity chef with a permanent smile on his face, but Vikas is more than just the culinary genius we all have known and loved.
A Michelin Star chef, an author, and now a filmmaker, Vikas Khanna is the multifaceted celebrity gem we’re lucky to have. But by no means, did the star we all know today have it all offered to him on a golden platter. And just a conversation with him has us in awe of his journey to the top. The celebrity chef and artiste extraordinaire is full of stories. And here’s a little insight into a slice of his remarkable journey.
Khanna’s early life was not particularly a cakewalk. Half his childhood was spent coping with disability and the other half dealing with bullying because of it.
I was born with misaligned legs for which I had to wear special corrective shoes. I couldn’t walk properly because of it.
His disability made him stay away from other kids and spend most of his time in the kitchen with his grandmother. While it may have been crippling, he never let it get to him as he found strength in his family.
His mother’s words of encouragement are what gave him the will to believe that he truly was “not meant to walk, but in fact, meant to fly.”
“I was always the black sheep of the family. I wasn’t good at studies,” says Khanna when speaking about what most Indian households value above all — academics.
I always was into various forms of art, whether it was fine art, poetry or cooking I always had an artistic bent of mind.
And that precisely sums up how seamlessly he has dabbled into various forms of art.
His journey to his Michelin stars was rife with struggle, odd jobs, language barriers and more. But through it all, he stayed strong and never got bogged down.
At the age of 17, Khanna started a catering business which was when he gained the confidence to pursue something more in the culinary world.
The only thing stopping him was his supposed lack of English speaking skills. But he overcame that too when he personally convinced the principal of a culinary school in Manipal that he can prove to be an asset despite the language barrier.
In college, I realised how much I really love cooking and decided this is my true calling. And my life truly changed when I moved to New York.
There he played on his strength and truly put Indian food on the map.
Speaking about one of his many achievements in New York, he says
A few years back I was called to shoot for the cover of Manhattan magazine. I was the only non-white chef in the group.
But even there at the shoot he was faced with hostility for being the only ethnic face among an all white crowd.
I don’t know if it was intentional but I was put right in the centre. I’m sure the others were not too pleased [laughs].
A few restaurants, shows, books, and high profile meetings later, Vikas Khanna caught on to another one of his passions — filmmaking. When asked about how hopped on to this path he says,
Anyone can make a film. I love collecting stories, observing people and places. And making a film has always been one of the things I’ve always wanted to do.
A fervently passionate artist, Khanna says,
Inspiration is everywhere. There are stories everywhere and wherever I went, I listened to people & collected these amazing tales. And I always wanted to translate them into book or film form. I'm glad that I finally got to do it.
He goes on to narrate a tale of how he witnessed the importance of colour in our lives.
I was in Varanasi to get closure after my father's passing. This was during Holi some time ago, I saw something that overwhelmed me. A group of widows were celebrating Holi for the first time and seeing their happiness, it occurred to me that once you strip someone of colour in their life, it really takes so much away from them. And the Holi colours truly symbolised what colour meant to them... like it was returning what was taken away from them. This is what gave me the inspiration for my book, ‘The Last Colour’
The Last Colour is also a feature film now and has already been presented at the Cannes.
A brief look into his life gave us such an insight into his amazing journey and his extraordinary life. But despite the pedestal at which he stands today, Vikas Khanna is still one of the most grounded celebrities we’ve come across. And his life story deserves a film of its own.