With a cookery show and now a cook book - are you feeling like a celeb?
Celeb? [Laughs] Not so much. I am the same old Pankaj, grounded and happy in my space.
What does the book mean to you?
This cook book is a dream come true. I always wanted to open a restaurant and I always wanted to write a cook book. I am glad one of my dreams is coming true right now while I am working on my other dream. I had the idea of what would entail in my cook book since a while- even before MasterChef. During lunchtime in my school, we teachers would discuss recipes and menus. They would ask me for advice and tips and most importantly my friends would say that they way I describe the preparation of a dish makes them salivate. [laughs] but in this book I couldn’t express myself the way I did back then as we had to go step by step and make the reading and cooking process easier for people.
What is the significance of recipes featured in it?
When I was asked what I would like the theme of the cook book to be, I had just one thought in mind. I wanted the ingredients used in the dishes to be available everywhere. Mostly the ingredients mentioned in cookbooks are hard to come by in cities like Lucknow and I personally had problems procuring ingredients. I would ask people coming from metros to get me stuff. So I didn’t want my readers to go through the same. We have ensured that every dish has ingredients which are available easily. The recipes in the book are very doable for every housewife.
Which are your favourite recipes?
My favourite recipes are the ones I make at home every other day. Ghelavati Kebab Tarts which has my own twist. Drunk Chicken Log and Tangy Tomato Chicken too are great hits at home. I love making Sabz Biryani and the biggest of all hits is Mushroom Cheese Ravioli.
Why would you say is your cook book a must have?
My cook book has doable recipes which anyone who is interested in cooking can make. We have also given a photo of each dish which facilitates the reader. It really helps when you can see what the dish looks like.
What sets your recipes apart from the others?
The fact that the recipes are doable and we have ensured that the ingredients are ones that are available everywhere easily. Moreover, Chef Ajay & Chef Kunal have given few recipes too which is an added bonus.
What is your take on Akshay Kumar’s foreword?
I am grateful to Akshay for this favour. Even during MasterChef since my audition, he encouraged and pushed me to excel. I perhaps wouldn’t have been where I am if not for his support. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Chef Ajay & Chef Kunal who have been an immense help during and after MasterChef.
Which cookbooks have you referred to or bought?
I have plenty of cookbooks. I feel a sense of peace while reading them. They help me open up my mind and think beyond conventional methods. I especially love the book Cooking Delights Of The Maharajas from The Princely House Of Sailana. It is not only inspiring but effective as well.
Who do you admire as chefs in India and abroad?
I simply love Chef Ghulam Rasool. I cherish few recipes I have of him which were passed on to me by a friend. I also enjoyed the show Yan Can Cook. Yan would describe the process and dishes in such a lovely manner which was not only engaging but inspiring too. The show was the primary reason I got so interested in cooking well and for my participation in MasterChef.
Do you adhere to the green kitchen concept?
Yes I do but to an extent. There are numerous products that are unavailable and one can’t go organic and has to settle for the next best thing. In a restaurant too, it isn’t possible to adhere to the green concept every time. But I try and push myself to maintain a green kitchen as much as possible.
What tips would you give to housewife chefs?
The kitchen is your lab so experiment away. Try new things, mix and match. Sure the food at home and in restaurants is different but by presenting your food well, you can add more value to your food. Take that extra step and you will be rewarded.
Post your success, have you set aside your teaching career?
Well I think with my cookery show and now this book, I am in essence teaching people about food, recipes and hoe to bring them together. So essentially I am still teaching. I don’t think I can leave the teacher in me far behind. I am living a satisfying life.
What awaits next for Pankaj Bhadouria?
I am working on my own restaurant which I will open in Lucknow. I am also planning a second cook book. But it’s too soon to give details on both plans.