Career story: The hottest chef of the US from Amritsar, Vikas Khanna

The first Indian Chef on FOX prime time.

The hottest chef of the US from Amritsar, Vikas Khanna

Are you fascinated by travelling as a part of your profession? Is travelling to exotic places across our country and the world in your wish list? Imagine travelling to opulent places or attending sumptuous food festivals at the expense of your organization. Sounds interesting! Isn’t it?  This post is for hotel management aspirants who would like to know the career story of a man whose passion took him to the US from Amritsar. the story  of chef Vikas khanna is inspiring and a classic example of success after the hard battles.

Upbringing and childhood of Vikas Khanna:

Born on November 14, 1971 in Amritsar, Vikas Khanna is the second child of Devinder and Bindu Khanna. Vikas had a difficult childhood as he had misaligned foot since birth. Though his legs were straightened when he was two weeks old, but, he had to wear wooden shoes to keep his leg aligned. He detested them, in his words, “They made me look so ugly and everybody laughed at me. They were also very heavy and felt clumsy.” By the age of 13, he was able to walk properly, and had learnt not to curse his condition, but relish it.

Budding chief in Vikas Khanna:

Vikas Khanna is an example of blessing in disguise. As he stayed at home, he shadowed his grandmother in the kitchen and began cooking. He started enjoying ‘rolling the roti’. Vikas along with his mother would go from school to school to sell chhole-bhature. During this time, the principal of a school put forward a contract to make 580 sweaters to help them raise money for their catering business. There was no looking back.

Career progression of Vikas Khanna:

At the age of 17, Vikas Khanna started Lawrence Garden, his own banquet and catering business. Along with running this business, he completed his graduation from the Welcomgroup Graduate School Hotel Management, Manipal (in 1991). Alongside, he established SAANCH, a cultural festival, to bring together diversified foods and traditions from different parts of India. Khanna took training by the renowned chefs of Taj Group of Hotels, Oberois, Leela Group, and many more. He has studied at the Culinary Institute of America, Cornell University and New York University and the prestigeous Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. He has also worked with some of the most honored chefs in the New York.

College facilitated Khanna’s transformation from a shy person to an extrovert person enjoying life the way young people do.

After college, chef Vikas Khanna worked at the Leela Kempinski in Mumbai for three years, and then returned to take charge of his business in Amritsar. His older brother who is an engineer inspired him to apply for the US visa.

Journey from Amritsar to the US:

Career dreams bring with them a lot of challenges. At one point in time his American dream was quite a struggle when he was left with only three dollars. In a state of dilemma, he was contemplating going back to Lawrence Garden. And, a miracle happened. Chef Vikas Khanna got a golden opportunity when someone needed a small tray of any appetizers in 300 portions, so he made Dhokla. The dhokla shot Vikas Khanna was appointed as the executive chef at Salaam Bombay Restaurant. Of course, struggle with a positive spirit is rewarding.

Happy and busy in his new life, chef Vikas Khanna was invited to appear on Gordon Ramsay’s show Kitchen Nightmares in 2006. Ramsay advised him, ”You should be doing two things – work in Hollywood movies and be on TV,”. The thought of doing TV had never even occurred to him and he only knew how to cook.

Vikas focused on his biggest career dream to make his mark in the West. Tandoor Palace, his first restaurant, closed in the same week when he appeared on Kitchen Nightmares. This didn’t bog him down as the show got him a new restaurant named Purnima. Khanna’s third restaurant, Junoon came up in America. Within 10 months of Junoon’s opening, Vikas won “A Michelin star” in October 2011 by Michelin Guide. In 2011, he was also honored with the ‘Rising Star Chef Award’ by Star Chefs for his role in shaping the future of American Cuisine. The next moment of glory was in 2012, when Khanna had to cook Satvik food for President Barack Obama.

In the same year, he started working on a book named Utsav. It is a huge tribute to his loving grandmother for helping him start exploring and experimenting with food. His “Flavors First” won the Benjamin Franklin Award in 2012. In 2013, his cookbooks – Savor Mumbai, My Great India and Khanna Sutra won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Currently, chef Vikas Khanna is the host and judge of the TV show MasterChef India, and Junior MasterChef India on Star Plus. He also hosts the travel show Twist of Taste on Fox Traveller.

The story of chef Vikas Khanna is a fine inspiration for those aspiring to make career in hotel management and hospitality industry. Do you find it interesting? Share with us.