Delhi is a city that runs on emotions: Chef Ranveer Brar
Celebrity chef Ranveer Brar talks to us about the passionate side of the capital that he witnessed while staying here
On tracing the homegrown culinary scene, one will realise that Chef Ranveer Brar’s name has been ineluctable both before and after the rise of Instagram. Apart from being a skilled chef—he has worked with some of the best hotels across India including the city’s Taj Mahal Hotel, The Claridges, The Oberoi, and Radisson Blu Hotel, Noida—Brar also hosted and produced several culinary TV shows.
A former judge on two seasons of MasterChef India, he most recently made his acting debut in Modern Love Mumbai with filmmaker Hansal Mehta’s Baai. “I am a Lucknow boy who started his professional career in Delhi. My first job was in Delhi—a management trainee at the Taj at a salary of `3,612 a month,” Brar tells us with a chuckle when we ask him what he recalls when thinking about Delhi, a city he has lived in for “seven years; most of my professional life in India”.
Of course, managing day-to-day life in a city like Delhi back then must not have been easy, but Brar tells us what made it to his survival guide, “We used to stay at Moti Bagh near the Gurdwara. By the second month of living in Delhi, we knew that—in order to survive and keep our lifestyle—we needed to eat in the Gurdwara at least 10 times a month. After some time, we [he and his flatmate] realised that eating for free does not work. So, we started cooking in the Gurdwara and felt better. In the second year, our salary increased to Rs 5,000 something… we were on top of the world, but it did not stop the Gurdwara visits (laughs).”
It’s all about emotions
It is not uncommon for those moving to Delhi from other Indian cities to have a love-hate relationship with this city. However, Brar mentions that his first feeling here was that of intimidation. “I remember, just crossing the road used to be like—this boy from Lucknow, crossing the road in Dhaula Kuan at a time when there were no flyovers… it’s 1998 and you just had to cross the road. I remember the first time it took me 40-odd minutes to cross the road. I was like, ‘where have I come?’ (laughs). I was just intimidated by the grandness of it all. Coming from Lucknow, everything was bigger here—roads, monuments.” Brar goes on to mention how, once he understood the city, he witnessed a different side to it. Being a Punjabi was an added bonus according to him, “Knowing Punjabi meant you could knock at people’s emotions faster. I think that helped me settle down faster.”
Delhi, to him, is all about emotions, “You get used to the city, and then you realise that it is the same emotion-driven conversation that drives the city. I love the vibe of the city and how emotionally driven it is. You know, you will not understand it till you have lived in Mumbai. Mumbai is a very ‘what’s in it for me’ sort of a city, wherein Delhi is emotionally driven… a city that runs on emotions.”
The food connection
A conversation with Brar is definitely incomplete without his thoughts about the food in Delhi, something he would often chronicle in his blog. “When I was at The Oberoi, I realised the beauty of food around Nizamuddin. I have always been fascinated by Old Delhi food, be it near the Jama Masjid or the Nizamuddin Dargah, etc.”
All the life lessons
We conclude our chat by asking him whether Delhi has helped shape him and his dreams. “I think it makes you tough. Delhi teaches you, very blatantly, to stand up and face the music. It makes you stronger, and makes you confront your demons right there without giving you a way to escape by smiling. That is what it did to me; it made me tougher, it made me realise that nothing is easy.”
Favourite place to hang out: It would be Rick’s (Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi). I have memories of the place from its Captain’s Cabin days.
Favourite street food: I would really like to talk about Bade Miyan Kheer Wale, which is near Badal Begh Masjid in Old Delhi. I have not been to his shop in a while; he sells only Kheer but nothing like what I have ever had before.
Favourite monument: Humayun’s Tomb; it’s got a certain quaint vibe to it. When things used to be tough at The Oberoi, I would go there, sit on the bricks, and find my energy back.
A lesson the city taught you: It teaches you raw and pure toughness.