Interview with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

We caught up with Indian Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, to talk about his journey in becoming a chef and why The Yellow Chilli in Wembley is the place to dine in for good Indian food.

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, you have been described as a culinary innovator, can you tell us your journey of becoming a chef?

My journey in the f&b industry has seen its fair share of ups and downs which have shaped me into the person I am today. I have always had faith in my capabilities and never confined myself to the defined parameters of what a chef does. When most of my friends chose to become engineers and doctors I decided to be in the kitchen. I started my career with the iconic Ashok Hotel. As part of my initial learning, I worked in multiple kitchens in big cities as well as small towns from Wellington in New Zealand to the oldest Hindu city Varanasi. I went on to become one of the youngest Executive Chefs for a large five-star hotel in Varanasi at the age of 28. Looking ahead and looking beyond, helped me explore amazing new avenues and go off the beaten path. At the peak of my career as an Executive Chef, I gave up the comfort of my job and started my dream of being independent and started my company Khana Khazana. Over the years God has been kind and I have been able to do justice to opportunities coming my way be it Television, Content Publishing, Products, Restaurants, and so on. 

Some would say it’s a chef’s dream to have their own cookery show, how did that come about?

While working as a chef I had reached my professional peak fairly early in life, while I was happy with my success, it bothered me at the same time. I did not want to stagnate and continue to do the same things. There was this constant craving again to do something different. Around that time Zee television had just launched and they approached me for a cookery show titled ‘Shriman Bawarchi, a name I wasn’t particularly fond of. There were other Chef’s also doing the show who were just keen to be featured on TV. I suggested the name “Khana Khazana” which the channel liked. What was initially meant to be a one-episode affair then turned out to be the most successful food show of all times on Indian Television. Starting off as a host and food consultant for the show I eventually started producing the show. ‘Khana Khazana’ went on to become the longest-running show of its kind in Asia which was broadcasted on Zee TV with a channel viewership of over 500 million in over 120 countries. 

For those who haven’t eaten your incredible food at The Yellow Chilli, how would you describe it, and what dishes can guests find on the menu?

My extensive experience and travel across India in search of unique tastes and flavours from various regions is the inspiration behind the menu at ‘The Yellow Chilli’. With this as a base, my menu philosophy is to work on the principle of re-inventing cult Indian dishes and make them relevant. As a result, The Yellow Chilli provides its guests with a feel of travelling across India with all five senses and a plate. The skew is definitely towards the tastes from Northern part of India as that is where I spent most of my initial years growing up. 

Some of the signature dishes on the menu are Lalla Mussa Dal (kali dal simmered for 36 hours), Lawrence Road Tandoori Murgh (tandoori chicken – Amritsar style), Puran Singh da Tariwala Murgh (chicken curry from the famous dhaba). The menu is a mix of familiar flavours and tastes from different parts of India with a delectable difference. 

What is the winning dish on the Yellow Chilli menu, that every guest should try?

Shaam Savera (spinach koftas stuffed with homemade cottage cheese on a bed of luscious honey tomato gravy)

What is the best piece of advice you would give to an aspiring Chef?

There is no alternative to hard work, it always pays off in the long run and if you can develop talents that are unique then it becomes a lethal combination. I also firmly believe that one should always keep learning whether it’s cooking techniques or new technologies. Focus both on skills as well as knowledge. Being a good human being shows what you put out on the plate. 

If you had a free day in London to do what you want, where would you go?

I love to walk and love to shop, mostly window shopping. I can start with a quiet walk from Hype Park while enjoying the stillness of the water with ducks ambling, kids running around, young and old couples moving around hand in hand and just enjoy the vastness of the open area in the heart of the city. I do not have the luxury to do that in Mumbai without getting stopped for selfies (That’s what fans ask for now – started with autographs, then photographs, then photos, then pics and now selfies). 

From there I would walk to Oxford street and enjoy the hustle and bustle, window shop and buy a few things here and there, whilst enjoying the varied architectures of buildings, ranging from Romanesque to Gothic to modern. I’d then move aimlessly towards Regent street, go to Trafalgar Square, get recognised, here and there and take a few selfies to feel at home. 

The Yellow Chilli –