Although we’ve had our sights set on Vikas Khanna to be Metro’s Hot Chef for a while, it seems like we’re not the only media outlet to find the executive chef of the upscale eatery Junoon eye-catching: The readers of Eater NY just voted him the hottest chef in New York (he’ll now compete with chefs from San Francisco, L.A., Portland, Miami, Austin and Chicago for the title of Hottest Chef in the Country). Let’s check in to see what makes him so delish, shall we?
What is the most misunderstood thing about Indian cuisine?
People think that Indian cuisine is much more spicy and complex than it really is. Many of our dishes are very mild and easily made. Most feature just a few spices in different amounts that change the balance and perception of a dish.
What is your absolute favorite thing to cook at Junoon?
Lentils — it makes me feel connected to my grandmother, who taught me to cook. It was the first dish that my Biji let me make for the family when I was still a boy. I feel such a sense of comfort when I have lentils and it reminds me of the humble place I come from.
What is the most important thing your grandmother instilled in you about cooking?
When I first began my catering company, she took me aside and advised me to always have good intentions in my heart, no matter who I was cooking for. She told me that people will forgive the mistakes in your life if they believe in your best intentions. I have found this to be true.
What is your favorite element about the physical space of Junoon?
Our meditation room. It’s a space we set aside for the staff and we hold meditation sessions there. I think that caring for the staff is the most important thing in creating a successful restaurant. The most important thing is our relationships and taking care of each other. I want everyone here to feel valued because they are all important to our mission of hospitality.
Can you tell us about your short film series “Holy Kitchens,” which focuses on religions and their relationship with food?
Our next “Holy Kitchens” film will have its premiere at the New York Indian Film Festival, taking place May 4–8. It’s called “From Karma to Nirvana” and it focuses on the life of Krishna and the food-sharing traditions in Hinduism.