If you were born in the 80’s, most of you, like me, would have grown up watching the cookery show ‘Khana Khazana’ by Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor in the 90’s. When I came back from school, Amma would be plonked in front of the TV, frantically trying to keep pace with the recipe and the ingredients, and taking down notes, and if anyone disturbed her then, God save them!! I had always loved watching the show with Amma and sometimes, if she was in a good mood, she would let me do the notes-taking too! So, for me, Sanjeev Kapoor was like some kind of demi-god, who every person that loved cooking, worshipped! I would always tell myself that if I could not cook like him when I grew up, I should atleast be a good cook like Amma!
So, when I chanced upon an enchanting encounter with Sanjeev Kapoor at the Kitchen Yatra Show (an exhibition on Modular Kitchens) last week, here in Bangalore, I could not believe my luck. My joy knew no bounds! He had come for the inauguration ceremony, and had a 4-5 hour live cookery show. I was at the exhibition since my Tupperware team had a stall. I’d promised myself to go to Sanjeev-ji’s live show atleast for sometime. When I went in to the cookery show, my Mom and Aunt who were watching it right from the minute it started, said that he was randomly calling people to pick ingredients for him, from which he would make instant, new dishes and creations. Even if the ingredients were odd and wouldn’t really go with each other (atleast that’s what everyone thought), he amazingly put them together to create new dishes. He’d already done this for 2 dishes Amma said, and she urged me to volunteer to go up on stage the next time he called out. So when he asked for a volunteer for the 3rd dish, I promptly put up my hand, but I was in for a surprise when I went on stage!!
He said that all the while, people were picking ingredients and he’d been cooking something new, but now, he would give the ingredients and I had to cook something new!! I was flabbergasted and my brain stopped working for a moment! I was so over-whelmed by the thought that I was going to cook something which would be certified by the country’s biggest Celebrity Chef!! He said I could pick any of the ingredients from what was on the table and had to create a new dish in 7 minutes. Apart from the regular spices, masalas and other stuff like coriander etc., was what I thought looked like Chicken and I almost fainted! All of you regularly following the blog must know by now that I’m vegetarian (OK, correction: an eggitarian). I’ve never laid my hands on chicken, let alone cook with it! I thought, if it was indeed Chicken, I would just apologise and chicken-out! I cursed myself for putting up my hand when I did! Why did I need this kind of embarrassment, I asked myself. But luckily for me, Sanjeev-ji’s Assistant who was hanging around, told me it was not Chicken! It was just Raw-Jackfruit, deep-fried. My heart skipped a beat, Raw-jackfruit was as new to me as Chicken! Haha!! But I told myself that this was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I had to do it. So, as Sanjeev-ji kept the audience enthralled with his health trivia, I quickly whipped up a new type of sabzi with it.
Trust me…Sanjeev Kapoor was as intimidating as he was comforting. When the sabzi was almost ready, he came over to take a peek at what was cooking and while he was at it, I quickly garnished the sabzi with some finely chopped coriander. And guess what he did?!! He turned to the audience and said – “See, when I come to check if it’s ready, last-minute corrections are going on!!” Lol! I love his sense of humour :) And then, he asked me if I’d tasted it, and I said I hadn’t yet. So again, he turns to the audience and says “Dekho dekho, khud banayi hai, or khane ko dar-rahi hai” (for those who don’t get Hindi, he meant “look, she has cooked something and she herself is scared to taste it”!!). And then he dared me to taste the sabzi first, before anyone else. That had me in splits. I was hunting for a clean spoon to dip into the pan, while he waited, and looked on as if I was really scared to taste it! The minute the spoon touched my lips,
SK: “Batao, kaisa hai?” (“Tell me, how’s it?”).
Me: “Bilkul Badiya!” (“Absolutely delish!!”)
SK: Achha? Bhai wah! Chalo dekhte hain (“Really? Wah! Let me see…”)
SK: “Mmmmmmm….” (pregnant pause for almost a minute after that, during which, my heart was beating as loud as a Harley Davidson bike would sound!!)
Me (thinking): Oh God, let him like it! Please let him like it! Please, please, please! (*closes eyes and sends up a prayer*!!)
SK (after what felt like a few minutes, but in reality, was just a few seconds): “Sach Bataoon to…mmmmmmmm…mein normally pehle criticize karta hoon or baad me acchi baatein bolta hoon, lekin abhiiiii, mein voh kaam nahin karoonga. Kyon kiiiiii…yeh bahut badiyaaaaaa hai!!” (“To tell you the truth, I normally criticize first and then appreciate. But this time, I’m not gonna do that, because…this tastes reallllly goooood!”)
He then turned back to me and said “Good job, well done!” and that made my day, no wait, made my life worth living, cos to be appreciated by a celebrity Chef like him was an honour! Gosh, I’d finally done it! Chicken or no chicken, I had managed not to chicken out! I felt like I was on cloud nine!! And before I went off the stage, I told Sanjeev-ji that I write a food blog and he is a big inspiration to me! He wished me and the blog the best of luck and even asked me to post the recipe for the Raw-jackfruit sabzi on the blog, which I definitely will, very soon. The few minutes I shared with him on stage are,and will always be a part of the most golden memory of a lifetime! It was a wonderful experience for me, and I still feel it was a dream!! :) Sanjeev-ji, if you’re reading, thanks very much for giving me the opportunity! This was a day to remember!
Sanjeev-ji deftly converted my raw-jackfruit sabzi into a yummy Biryani later on, and people who tasted it, came to my Tupperware stall later on and complimented me on the taste! Boy, was I delighted or what?!! :D
I just received some of the pictures of the show from the Kitchen Yatra Exhibition Organisers. They’ve also promised to share the video footage with me, which I will surely upload on here once it reaches me. Till then, here are a few pics I feel absolutely honoured and delighted to share with you all!!
Sanjeev-ji explains the task ahead as a nervous-me looks on (wondering if what’s in the plate is Chicken!!)
Caught unawares, nervously biting my toungue as Sanjeev-ji comes over to check what’s cooking!
All-smiles before I taste the sabzi, cos Sanjeev-ji dared me to taste it before anyone else!!
Getting his autograph…something I will treasure all my life!
Alright now, this wonderful experience having been shared, I must admit it took me 2-3 days to actually type this entire post, thanks to my arms still hurting like crazy all the time. I’m suffering from Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) on both my arms and shoulders and unable to spend time on my laptop like before. I know all of you are ardently waiting for the round-ups for the ‘Serve me Some…’ Juices and Salads events. I’m really really really very sorry. Please bear with me a few days more. It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to type, however, I promise to spend 15 minutes each day (cos that is all my arms let me) on the round-ups and manage to share them with you all very soon.
Till then, keep cooking and have fun! Miss you all truck loads!