Ranveer Brar is making waves once again as the judge of the latest season of ‘MasterChef India’. He has been one of the most popular judges of the show and audiences have always loved his unique style and approach towards cooking. His insights into the world of chefs help not only the contestants on the show but many home cooks who’re sitting at home, watching the show and getting inspired.
Talking to Prateek Sur, Ranveer Brar opens up about his journey on the popular cooking show, how he takes time out of his busy schedule to be a part of the show, how he manages to impart wisdom, his mantra for a good chef, and lots more. He even responds to the accusations of him smelling the food for much longer than any other co-judge on ‘MasterChef India’. Besides that, Brar also talks about the six finalists, their strengths and weaknesses and who he feels is poised to end up as the winner.
Excerpts from the candid chat:
You have been a judge on ‘MasterChef India’ for quite some time. What pushed you to take the role of a full-time judge on ‘MasterChef India’?
I think it’s not a full-time position, but I would definitely say that I absolutely enjoy it as a chef. Professionally I grow because every year, year after year, I get an understanding of where the country is with respect to its food and its connection to food. And I absolutely enjoy that. Besides the camaraderie with Vikas and the joy that you get, being a part of something bigger, which is about food, is something to be cherished.
How difficult it is to manage the regular working life as a chef and also take out time for ‘Master Chef’?
It can be tricky. It can be tricky sometimes. Actually, all of the time. When shooting ‘MasterChef’, when you’re here, this is a reality show. It’s not a scripted show. You have to be emotionally, physically, and mentally present and only be doing this. So, you end up working 1.5 times one time here and 0.5 times for the rest of the stuff that you do. Everything else takes a backseat. But then that’s the sacrifice you make to be a part of something bigger than you.
‘Master Chef’ is a show that has aired in numerous countries and in various formats. What do you think makes the Indian version so popular?
I think the Indian version is popular purely because of the diversity that we have, we are an amazing country with such a diverse culture, cuisines and outlooks, and more importantly, such diverse upbringings and such diverse stories that reflect in people’s expression towards food. There are just so many ways you can stratify this beautiful country. And I’m just happy and proud to be a very small spec in this large universe of diversity that is the country called India.
The judges have kept on changing over the years. Besides you, who has been your all-time favourite judge on ‘MasterChef India’?
It’s very difficult to choose. It’s so unfair. This question. I don’t know in terms of judges or in terms of...I can’t really comment. But there is a personal bond that I have with Vikas, which is a very different sibling, best friend bond, that is very special to me. Other than that, I’m in awe of Garima and how she conducts herself and carries herself on the show, Chef Vineet for his grace, and Chef Sanjeev for his larger-than-life persona. There’s so much in everybody.
Any judge from the other ‘MasterChef’ shows across the globe whom you’ve always liked a lot?
Well, I have been a big fan of Gary, I think Gary from ‘MasterChef Australia’. He’s just so special and he’s just such an amazing human being. Every time I travel to Australia, I stay at his place. I think it’s just. Yeah, I think he’s special, blessed and a great person.
Among the contestants this season, who do you think is the toughest one?
Oh, this is so difficult. I think all the finalists, we have six finalists and all of them are amazing and outstanding and it’s very unfair to sort of pick one. But I think Ruksar is amazing, and Nidhi is amazing. Mohammed, Ashik, Suraj, Harry, actually, all of them.
Is there any habit of either of your co-judges that you don’t like?
I think, no, not really. You sort of grow with them and you make it. You make everything a part of the experience. And I absolutely love all of it. Gives me a different vibe.
I remember talking to another co-judge of yours who pointed out that they didn’t like how you smell the food for so long before tasting it. Do you also feel that you do smell the food up close for quite some time?
Yeah, I think I do. I think, for me, smell is a very, very important sense in the whole gastronomic experience and in this, when you need to sort of get into yourself and find a moment with yourself. Tasting, for me, is a very sacred act, and that is what we are really here to do as ‘MasterChef’ judges. And between all this limelight and cameras and contestants and television, you need to find that split second where you can connect with yourself. For me, experiencing my food is that moment. And it’s very special to me.
Every chef has a food philosophy. What is your mantra that you always live by?
I think simplicity is very, very important when it comes to clarity, though. That is my mantra.
From what I’ve read about you, you’ve started getting into cooking right from your childhood and eating street food across lanes and bylanes of Lucknow. What was it specifically that drew you to take this love for food as a profession?
I think it’s very special. Understanding street food is so, so important. I think it’s very important that we experience all aspects of food. Home food is often underrated, but it’s also an important part of what we learn as chefs, what we do as chefs. And I think, for me, street food of Lucknow gave me an insight into what food can mean, basically, what food can mean to an entire city, what emotions it evokes in a larger scheme of things. So that was special, and that really defines me as a chef.
After being a chef for so many years, is it the same attraction that makes you enter the kitchen every time, even now, or your goals as a chef have changed from what it was when you started your career?
I think the goals keep changing, and that’s the beauty of it. If you want to do something for the rest of your life, you have to evolve, and your medium has to evolve with you. So for me, food as a medium has evolved. Food meant different things to different people five years ago, it has evolved. Its place in society, the place in a person’s heart has evolved. The social connection to food has changed. And if you’re a food person, you’ve got to change with the times. Your goals change and your expression changes.
After your studies, you did work abroad as well. So what triggered you to be back in India and start your own business?
Yeah, so I studied in India and I worked abroad for ten years. I came back because of health issues within the family. Father was unwell, he was diagnosed with cancer, and that primarily was the reason for me coming back. But I’m just so glad I did. I came back to my country. You appreciate something a lot more when you’ve missed it. And I appreciate India a lot more after coming back, after staying away from it for ten years.
While we see a lot of male chefs, we find very few female chefs, whereas women are the ones who are cooking every day in the kitchen, across households, all over India. What is it that stops women from leaving their home kitchens and going out to become professional chefs?
I think it’s a thing of the past. The whole gender agnosticism of cooking is a thing. Now men are cooking inside the homes and women are cooking in professional kitchens, and that is a thing that we are living with. I always said the problem earlier was men would step out of the house to cook and women would be cooking in the house. Today we are in a society where women are stepping out of the house to cook and men are cooking in the house. Just as an example, 55% of my subscribers are males and not females for my YouTube channel. So that goes to show that men want to cook at home. And in a world where today women are out there to express themselves in almost any and every profession, cooking is really opened up. I think we should keep the debate very gender agnostic. This profession is gender agnostic. Like what’s happening across soccer, cricket and other games, cooking as a medium of expression should become gender agnostic, and this debate should be put to rest.