Chef Ranveer Brar: There’s more to Lucknow food than Kebabs
His love and passion for cooking began from the streets of Lucknow, his hometown. Frequenting small shops in search of best kebabs in the city, he chanced upon a certain Munir Ahmed’s store. Fascinated by the food and stories Ahmed would narrate, Ranveer decided to train under him for over six months. This was also 17-year-old Ranveer’s way of proving to his parents – that he was indeed serious about becoming a chef – who were apprehensive about with the decision. A degree from Institute of Hotel Management later, his skills opened the doors for him at Taj Hotel in Delhi. We later moved to Goa and then Boston, where he launched two restaurant chains. Meanwhile, destiny was putting together all the right ingredients for his success and fame. Television offers came by when he returned to India and in no time Chef Ranveer Brar became a household name. His television shows further took him to various destinations. In a free-wheeling interview, we speak to this well-travelled chef to inspire you to explore varied tastes of India.
How do you go about exploring a new place through its food?
I explore the culture of a place, its history and origins and then see where food fits into that culture. Cuisine is an extension of culture and cannot be studied in isolation. Also the streets are the best places to understand both cuisine and culture.
You have such extensive experience in knowing different places through their food. Can you share some memorable anecdotes of travelling and exploring food?
The best experiences have been cooking with a 95-year-old Khansama Mubarak Ali in Lucknow and cooking with tribals in Bastar.
Childhood memories of eating out in Lucknow…
To begin with, eating out in Lucknow is all about eating at places like Hazratganj, Lalbaug. These places have made Lucknow the new chaat capital of India. Lucknow has now become really famous for the Bawarchi Tola where all the royal chefs stay and explore the food in the small stalls during the wedding season. Lucknow is no more known for just its kebabs but also for the malai-based sweets. My fondest memory of my childhood is eating the authentic street side kebabs which inspired me to become a chef.
We know you find Kolkata’s eating culture pretty impressive. What is it about the city that enchants you?
The fact that you can eat to your heart’s and palate’s content with any amount of money in your pocket… Also the city’s love for its street food is enchanting.
A country/city/restaurant that unexpectedly surprised you with its food….
Aswad in Dadar. Maybe I didn’t go there with high expectations, but the food at Aswad is mind blowing every time.
…A place that disappointed you
Yet to visit a place that doesn’t have one positive take away.
Since you love to explore places that are not hyped up or are unexplored, can you give us some recommendations for places to eat at in some of the cities you love:
Kashmiri chai at Akbari gate Lucknow; unnamed kachori walla at Assi ghaat Benares; Food at Ki monastery on the way to Spiti.
Best and worst travel memory with regards to food…
The best food memory is of going back to my mom’s home and eating rajma chawal, the most comforting dish by my mother. Like I said, I am yet to visit a place that would leave a bad taste in my memory!