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Video: Immigrant Dishwasher to Presidential Chef

June 20, 2012 4:50 pm 7 Comments By  | A+ / A-

Kanika Chadda, an anchor for the cable network Sahara One TV, produced this video portrait of the celebrity chef Vikas Khanna for Voices of NY. The video was shot and edited by Jane Teeling, with additional camera work by Taylor Tepper.

In the video, Khanna also demonstrates a quick and delicious recipe for a tamarind-spiked vegetable stir-fry.

Growing up in a modest family in the Indian city of Amritsar, Punjab, Vikas Khanna‘s clubfoot forced him to wear braces on his legs and to sit it out when the other children played outside. He found refuge in his grandmother’s kitchen.

“That’s where all the magic happened,” the 41-year-old executive chef of the Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurant Junoon explained. Though the kitchen is traditionally women’s territory in Indian homes, Khanna’s mother and grandmother encouraged his passion for cooking.

Not only did he learn to walk, Khanna made strides as an entrepreneur, and opened his own catering business at age 17. “That was my revenge to all those who made fun of me,” Khanna said. “I just wanted to feed them.”

At age 30, Khanna left for New York with just a few hundred dollars in his pocket. To make ends meet, he took any odd job he could find, from passing out fliers in Central Park to working as a dishwasher at hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurants. He was almost ready to call it quits one cold Christmas morning, he recalls in the video above, when he found his way to the soup kitchen at the New York City Rescue Mission.

“Meeting other lost souls who were in a similar situation as me made me feel that there was some hope for me here,” he said of the experience.

Khanna went on to study at the Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and was awarded the New York Rising Star Chef Award in 2011. That same year, he was invited to be a celebrity judge on the reality series, “MasterChef India.” Last month, Khanna cooked a fund-raising dinner for President Barack Obama.

Through his foundation, sakiv, Khanna has hosted events to raise funds for AIDS awareness and earthquake and tsunami relief. Khanna has also authored six books about food and cooking, and launched a documentary series, “Holy Kitchens,” which focuses on the sacred foods of various religions.

Comments (7)

  • David F White

    What a story. I love when he smiles. Went to Junon but he was not there. Will go back to try my luck. Again: what a smile

  • Rita D'Silva

    He is too good looking even to be an actor, foget about being a chef. Very beautiful interview

  • soumya dixit

    same here went to junnon specially to meet him but he wasnt there :-( hope i will see him soon

    • Kishor

      The question is, what do the Asians think is the end game? They are alnlyig themselves with American society’s leeches (NAMs) against its productive component, which consists of whites and-ironically-Asians themselves. Somebody is going to have to pay for all the gimmedats. It makes little sense for the country’s wealthiest racial group to vote for a party who’s main policy is wealth transfer from rich groups to poor groups. The only way way this can possibly work for Asians is if at some future point when whites have become politically all but utterly irrelevant, tax is collected not only based on income but also race. When the democrats (or whatever other name the future dominant party may go by) can win power with 0% of the white vote, it’s not hard to imagine them instituting differential taxation based on race, whereby whites pay taxes not just according to what they earn but also according to their “past sins.” Under such a system Asians could escape the brunt of the financial punishment from being a part of a wealth transference society. I’m not sure though whether their voting patterns stem from such far-sighted strategizing or just retardedness.

  • Anjallee Paatil

    Hi,

    The story if Vikas is truly inspirational. I seldom get inspired by people, but his work and his persona have indeed left me spellbound. His story connected with me instantaneously on account of his humility. I call him the ” Pied piper of the culinary world”. You visit his face book page and you will understand why?

    Regards,
    Anjallee

  • Anjallee Paatil

    The story if Vikas is truly inspirational. I seldom get inspired by people, but his work and his persona have indeed left me spellbound. His story connected with me instantaneously on account of his humility. I call him the ” Pied piper of the culinary world”. You visit his face book page and you will understand why?

  • RASHMI GUPTA

    VIKASJI NEVER FEEL SAD ABOUT THE PAST .IF NOTHING WRONG HAPPENS WITH US HOW CAN WE THINK OF DOING SOMETHING DARING TO MAKE THE SITUATION RIGHT. SAB KI APNI APNI KAHANIYA HOTI HAI JAISE AAPKI HAI, JAISE MERI HAI, YEH HALAT HI TO HAI JO HAME KHUD AAPNE AAP ME EK BEHTAR BALKI BEHTARIN INSAAN KO DHUNDNE KO PRERIT(MOTIVATE) KARTI HAI.KEEP SMILING ALWAYS.REMEMBER SOMEONE IS MISSING U……………:)

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