A hospitality management graduate by qualification, with a bagful of experience and knowledge about food, he is always experimenting with different ingredient and whips up delicious yet nutritious and healthy meals for his clients.No wonder Ranbir Kapoor does not want to let go of him and trusts professional chef Harsh Dixit completely with his food.
In an exclusive interview with Hot Friday Talks, Harsh tells us how it all began and how he started cooking personalised meals for Ranbir.
You started with Six Pack Meals and then you were running POD Supply. Tell us more about it.
I am not doing the mealtime services anymore. I used to run POD Supply and before that, I used to run Six Pack Meals but now I have quit because of differences with my partners and since the last seven months I have been working as Ranbir Kapoor’s personal chef. My job is to plan meals on what my clients nutrition requirements based on the diet they are following. The meals need to be balanced so I focus on that.
I started Six Pack Meals out of my home kitchen and the idea was born over a conversation with a friend of mine who is a fitness trainer. I used to make meals for dinner etc. whenever we used to hang out together, from there we decided about serving these meals to other people as well. It was a self-funded startup you can say, from our home kitchen to a very limited clientele but it instantly became very popular among the Bollywood actors organically because we were the first ones in the city who were tailor making meals as per body type at the same time offering a variety of food.
What is the thought that goes behind the meals you create?
I’ve always been inclined towards doing healthy food and every time I think of making a dish, I think about how I would eat it if I have to eat healthily and plan the meals. Also, I used what I had learned about food science and nutrition back in culinary school to create nutritious dishes and tailor make diets, unlike in a restaurant where nothing is calorie counted.
Who are some of the celebrity clients you have catered to?
When I was running POD Supplies and Six Pack Meals I have catered to a wide variety of clients from Jacqueline Fernandez to Jackie Shroff, Arjun Kapoor, Siddharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Katrina Kaif and Ranveer Singh etc. besides many A-list industrialists.
What is that one dish that you are very proud of?
I think it would be my butter chicken. I make butter chicken without butter and that’s a special recipe made without any butter, ghee, cream or cashew paste, which is ideally the core ingredient of the butter chicken. I cut all these fats off and I call it the Not So NastyButter Chicken and this is also Akshay Kumar’s favorite too.
How did you start cooking exclusively for Ranbir?
After I quit POD Supplies I had thought of freelancing for some time but it was a stroke of luck, Ranbir called me up one day and asked me to come over for a chat. He wanted someone to prepare the meals fresh in his own kitchen instead of eating out of the boxes. Initially, I thought it was a one-time thing where I would just be training his home cook and taking it forward but he wanted me to plan his meals daily personally for him.
Besides planning Ranbir’s meals are there other things you do too?
Besides working as a personal chef for Ranbir, I freelance wherein I do restaurant consultations. I’ve done two projects, I do everything from planning the menu, training the staff as per the new menu etc. Apart from that I even do one on one sessions with people who want me to help them with meals based on their diet plans, I chalk out a meal plan for them in their own kitchen. I also give them recipes on healthy cooking.
Tell us about your day as far as cooking for Ranbir goes
I ideally go in the morning, prepare his breakfast by then I start preparing for his lunch and dinner etc. As in if there are sauces and salad dressings to be made, meat to be marinated etc. I get those ready but if its salads then the veggies and fruits are freshly cut just before he eats or if needed for the dishes. But when he’s shooting then sometimes I travel with him like I did that during his shoot for Brahmastra. I was there for almost sixty days in Bulgaria.
In the first schedule for around 40 days, I cooked only for him and the director sometimes whenever he requested. But in the second schedule, Alia was following a strict ketogenic diet so I cooked her meals too. Post that I trained Alia’s home cook and trained her with some specific ketogenic recipes that she liked.
I’ve also heard she baked a cake for Ranbir’s birthday this year.
Yes, I helped her with that cake. She wanted to bake a cake and she didn’t know how to so I helped her. It was a completely indulgent cake with all the likes of butter and sugar etc.etc. She baked a pineapple cake for him as he likes pineapple cakes. We were supposed to make a chocolate cake but she randomly asked Ranbir and he told her he likes Pineapple cake too so we decided to do that.
The Kapoor’s are known to be huge foodies does Ranbir too indulge sometimes?
There are times when he craves for stuff like pizza and he calls for it but over time I try and speak to him on his every meal and ask him what his day looks like etc. and plan a meal according to that. Having said that, it is ok to eat pizza but you should know how many slices are good for you in that particular meal. He tells me about his food cravings and things he feels like eating, and I try and come up with the healthier options of that. Like if he wants to eat ‘gajar ka halwa’ then I will make them without any sugar because the carrots that you get during the winters is very sweet so there is no need for sugar and if you cook it on slow flame with elaichi(cardamom) it caramelizes itself. But there are days when he feels like indulging in maybe pork belly or ‘sarson ka saag’ so I cook that too. I also keep in mind how his day is like if he is shooting outdoors all day then I plan his meals accordingly, meals that are easier to eat and also per his day. The calories are kept in mind as per the calories he’s burning. Like in Brahmastra, his look is lean and then the next movie he will be sharing space with Sanjay Dutt in Shamshera, so he has to look bulkier so his nutrition composition will also change.
Do you also cook for his friends and family?
I also cook for his friends come over for a party etc. When his friends come over they like chicken and pork belly baos but if it’s people like his sister Kareena etc. then I cook according to the instruction given because they prefer healthy food. What I mean to say is that I also do indulgent food but there is a certain way to make them if you keep a few things in mind.
Among all the things you cook for him, what is his favorite?
I like cooking for Ranbir because his palette is quite similar to mine. He loves Asian food, when I say Asian it includes Indian too besides Japanese and Chinese. He loves steak the most and he loves to eat them whenever he is travelling. But when he comes back home from his outdoor shoots then he likes to eat simple daal and rice. He’s very desi as a person and like all of us needs his daal chawal when he’s been out of the country for days. He loves his meat with the bones more than the boneless meat.
How did you think of becoming a personal chef to a star?
This is all very new because no one has really done a service like this. I took the business idea model from the maharajas who go to different homes to cook for people, though I don’t have an ego like the maharajas he laughs), and also this kind of service includes keeping personalised nutrition requirement in mind, there is an expertise. Like I said if Ranbir is shooting outdoors then I keep in mind things like the place he is shooting, what would be easier to eat for him to eat, whether he can use a spoon and fork etc. so small things like that are kept in mind.
Are you happy with what you are doing?
Yes, I definitely am. I am thinking of making this accessible to more people who require a service like this. When I was packing those meals in boxes, then the whole flair of me as a chef didn’t really come out, there was no artistic value as a chef to it. I am trying to up my team too now.
Lastly for all the Ranbir fans out there, what are the things Ranbir does not like to eat?
The only things he probably doesn’t like in his food are Zucchini, Thyme, and cherry tomatoes that’s about it. He’s a pleasure to work with.
Harsh has a lot of great ideas he’s working on and we’re sure whatever he does he will succeed in it since he puts his heart and soul into whatever he does. Here’s wishing him all the best!