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How Chef Sanjeev Kapoor Saved Indian Marriages Chef Sanjeev Kapoor would receive about five lakh letters a week, some which were written in blood and others which were marriage proposals.

By Kabir Singh Bhandari

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Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

Around three decades before we were surrounded by the multitude of food videos by bloggers which has become a common feature in our current world, there was one regular fixture on TV as far as food shows were concerned - Sanjeev Kapoor with his then trademark jet black moustache in a neat kitchen set on the Khana Khazana show.

Over the years he has had several incidents where women would come to him saying that he had saved their marriage as they learned to cook by watching the show. He would receive about five lakh letters a week, some which were written in blood and others which were marriage proposals. "All a part of success and popularity in the field," Kapoor says with the wisdom of a 'been there, done that' famous personality. Along with the fame came the opportunity to rub shoulders with renowned politicians, cricketers and Bollywood celebs and also the honour of cooking for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They all are food enthusiasts too and his interactions with them are usually around food and healthier options.

But how did it all begin?

In the early '90s discussions for a new TV channel that was to be India's first cable and satellite channel were on. It started with shooting one episode of a cooking show, where chefs from different hotels would demonstrate a couple of recipes for every episode. Kapoor approached the director of the show and they even started shooting but he was rejected mid-way as they wanted a lady chef on the show. However, it failed to take off and Kapoor was back. The programme that was initially called Shriman Bawarchi was renamed Khana Khazana following his suggestion and it evolved over the years, bringing to the viewers cuisines and recipes across countries, courses and categories.

"As for the success of the show, consistency in presentation, giving the viewers what they wanted to see and that they were successful when they followed the recipes, simplicity of cooking a recipe, use of accessible ingredients, the conversational style of presenting where I shared bits of information were the pillars on which the show ran for close to two decades. This, along with a lot of research going into demonstrating a recipe. I do come up with some recipes impromptu like Sham Savera that happened on the sets of Khana Khazana after my comeback on the show," says Kapoor. Recently active nutrition brand, Fast&Up collaborated with Kapoor to foray into a new segment by launching a line of healthy ready-to-eat food products under the umbrella of the brand. Till a decade ago, India was never a nutrition destination. People would basically ask their relatives or friends to get them nutrition products (and perfumes lest we forget) from whichever foreign country they were traveling from.

"Unfortunately, whatever was sold in India was not as regulated as it is today so a lot of bad-quality products came in. Even international markets did not think that India would be a country that was conscious of its health. While a lot of international fast-food chains were running in the country, none of the health and wellness corporations were trying to enter India because the audience did not seem considerate enough. We felt otherwise. We believed that India was a country that was poised for change. The millennial population is very health conscious," Varun Khanna, Co-Founder, Fast&Up told us. Khanna says Fast&Up as its name suggests helps you get nutrition fast and keeps your nutrition levels up. They aim to offer consumers a unique combination of taste and health, starting out with three categories- oats, soup and shake. GoodEatz Masala Oats is available in two flavours approved by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. The second is the GoodEatz soup range in three flavors- taste approved by Sanjeev Kapoor, nutrition assured by Fast&Up. Third is the Instant Protein Chocolate Meal Shake.

The Indian ready-to-eat (RTE) market stood at $261 million in 2017 and is projected to touch $647 million by 2023. The busy lifestyles of the millennial workforce, a spike in gross family income, and the concept of nuclear families gaining ground have contributed to the Indian ready-to-eat (RTE) food segment rising significantly in recent years.

Before signing off, we thought it would be criminal not to take healthy food advice from Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and so asked him about healthy snacks as alternatives to eating chips or namkeen etc when one feels like munching on something. This is what he told us:

1. With superfoods becoming a rage and people looking at living a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle, there are some great options to choose from, like makhana (fox nuts), dry fruits and for those who love to cook and try new healthy dishes, there's oats dhokla, mango quinoa salad and quinoa pistachio bars.

2. We probably didn't even realise this, but the Kothimbir Wadi when shallow fried or with just a little tempering poured over it is a great healthy eating option too.

3. A simple tomato omelet with sprouts stuffing is a filling option.

4. Then there are smoothies like the almond milk smoothie, blueberry yogurt smoothie among others.

Kabir Singh Bhandari

Former Senior Assistant Editor

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