CULINARY EXPERT DISCUSSES HIS JOURNEY AND TOP TIPS
COOKING has been the most popular pastime during lockdown, and many have gone online for inspiration.
One of the most popular culinary experts is master Indian chef and cool content creator Sanjyot Keer. His fabulous Your Food Lab venture has many millions of followers across different social media handles seeking healthy recipes, top cooking tips and food inspiration.
The former food producer for MasterChef India was surrounded by a family of fantastic cooks growing up and was encouraged by them to start a culinary journey as a 12-year-old, with pav bhaji being his first dish. He saw cooking as a superpower because it put smiles on people’s faces and used that expertise to help millions across the world.
Eastern Eye caught up with Sanjyot Keer to discuss his food journey and to get some top cooking tips.
Describe your connection with food. I don’t think everyone likes to cook, but everyone does love to eat. I feel blessed to curate recipes, create content revolving around food and put it out for people to try those recipes at home. My relationship with food is something I can’t describe in words. Whether professionally, shooting or at home in my kitchen, I love to cook. Food is therapeutic for me. I feel it is the best moment of my life when I’m in the kitchen cooking for someone else.
Did you imagine being so successful? Imagining something and believing in your dream are two different things, but yes, I did believe in my dream to be a successful chef. I worked hard towards my goal. I have tasted success as a chef, but I am still on the journey with lots more to do. I’m still working towards that every single day.
How do you decide what recipes and dishes to share online? You need to understand your audiences and what they want to cook. There are a lot of factors to consider such as seasons, festivals and different kinds of audiences. A lot of thought goes behind what I want to create, which is a lot of street food inspired fusion food. Whenever I’m stuck, I go out, eat a lot, travel and understand more flavours. That is how I create new recipes.
Did people become even more connected to you during lockdown? The Your Food Lab community has been constantly growing since its inception in 2016, but yes, we surely saw a spike during the pandemic in 2020. I feel lockdown gave people some time to cook more frequently at home. You understand as a creator that lockdown gave the people ample amount of time to try new recipes.
Would you give key cooking tips for beginners? If you’re starting out as a beginner, the first thing you need to overcome is fright. It is not difficult and difficult at the same time. So overcome that fright to enter the kitchen and try simple recipes, and I’m sure you will ace it. Understand and taste your ingredients, then you will know what will happen when you add it to your cooking. Go step by step and taste as you go. There is no set formula, so whether it is salt, spices or chillis, taste as you go and adjust accordingly. That is one top tip I’ll give beginners and to everybody else.
How important is it to understand spices? It’s a very vast topic to cover in an interview, but I’m also still learning spices. As a chef, I don’t feel I understand spices completely, but I learn every day. I go through a lot of literature and do a lot of experiments and trials when I’m cooking. You need to understand your spices really well. But if you understand the basics, a few spices will give you that earthiness, aroma, flavour, and body in your recipe. Every spice has a different characteristic and role in the recipe. Learning about spices will happen when you use them in your cooking and taste them yourself.
What are the common mistakes people make? A common mistake while cooking is people follow recipes as a formula. A recipe is not a formula, it’s a guide. If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of red chilli powder, it does not mean that if you add one tablespoon of red chilli powder, it’s going to be perfect. You may like your food more or less spicy. So don’t follow recipes blindly. Follow a recipe according to your palate profile. What kind of flavours do you like? And you’ll never go wrong with cooking. You will always keep exploring and you’ll understand your ingredients better.
What according to you is the secret of preparing the perfect meal? There’s no secret to preparing a perfect meal. I think the secret is that there are no shortcuts., I feel shortcuts and hacks kill that vibe of cooking. If you want something quick, the best option is to call for a takeout meal. If you want to cook something, give it more time. Do it wholeheartedly and your recipe will come out great. Whenever you’re cooking, just feel that you want to have the perfect meal and it will turn out good. The moment you try to avoid steps, you will find shortcuts. It’s not going to turn out good. So don’t run after hacks. That’s one secret to preparing the perfect meal.
What inspires you as a chef? The whole fact about working with food professionally and being a chef. Being able to create something from a few raw ingredients and serve it is like a blessing. That inspires me a lot to create something from scratch. The whole process of it just mesmerises me as a chef. My dream is that I’ll be able to reduce malnutrition around the world. There are a lot of kids in India who are suffering from malnutrition. I want to help them and reduce the number of deaths in young kids. And food is a blessing. Everyone has to eat and belonging to a profession with food is a blessing. That inspires me to do better every day.