Vikas Khanna launches a centre for Indian cuisine at Manipal University

The chef inaugurated the Centre of Indian cuisine and food culture at Manipal University recently, launching their Master of Arts in Indian Cuisine and Food Culture programme

October 25, 2023 11:34 am | Updated 11:45 am IST

Vikas Khanna

Vikas Khanna | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“If you’re in Hong Kong and craving Indian food, would you choose a Singaporean chef, a Thai chef or an Indian chef,” asks Vikas Khanna. It is evident that an Indian chef would be the preferred choice, so he raises the question: “Why do our chefs then focus on honing their skills and pursuing master’s programmes in Western cuisine?”

He continues, “While I admire chefs who excel in international cuisines, I also wonder how they can make their mark. For instance, if I want a French dessert, I’m most likely to visit a French patisserie and enjoy something prepared by someone deeply rooted in that culinary tradition.”

The celebrity chef, who is currently a judge on MasterChef India, inaugurated the Centre of Indian Cuisine and Food Culture at his alma mater, Manipal University. The centre, established in collaboration with Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration and ITC Hotels , has introduced a Master of Arts in Indian Cuisine and Food Culture programme, aiming to deepen an understanding of both macro and micro cuisines within the country. The 1,30,000 square foot facility has a museum of culinary arts, a library, seven kitchens, four bakeries, three restaurants, one cafe and 75 full-time faculty.

Chef Vikas Khanna inaugurating the Centre for Indian Cuisine and Food Culture at the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration in Manipal.

Chef Vikas Khanna inaugurating the Centre for Indian Cuisine and Food Culture at the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration in Manipal. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The Indian restaurant franchise sector is undergoing remarkable expansion, which has led to a heightened demand for Indian chefs internationally. Nevertheless, a substantial number of chefs lack proficiency in the diverse spectrum of macro and micro cuisines prevalent across India, resulting in a constrained representation of the nation’s diverse culinary traditions abroad.

He notes, “I believe many of India’s macro and micro cuisines have been underappreciated. Shows like MasterChef India are significantly contributing to changing this perception.” Vikas also highlights the importance of a documentation centre, such as the one at Manipal, in encouraging regional chefs to step forward and share their knowledge, history, and culinary traditions.

The MasterChef India judge maintains a deep-seated commitment to improving the educational landscape for emerging chefs in India. He observes, “I see a fresh standard emerging in the US and Europe, with culinary institutions continually reinventing and inspiring new generations. We require a similar transformation in our country.”

Vikas Khanna

Vikas Khanna | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

While Vikas expressed his gratitude for the opportunities he received in his culinary journey, he also emphasised the need to elevate educational structures and communicate a fresh approach within culinary colleges.

In 2018, Vikas set up the Museum of Culinary Arts in Manipal, with a section for ancient Indian kitchen tools.

Mere khud ke ghar par hi itna kuch change hogaya, ki koi purana bartan nai hai (at my own house things have changed so much, we don’t have any of our ancestral utensils),” Vikas laments. “No one was preserving these ancient artefacts, and it truly saddened me.”

For about 15 years, he had been diligently collecting culinary artefacts from across India, often exhibiting them at his New York-based restaurant, Junoon, when he decided to finally set up a museum for it.

In his perspective, the centre for Indian cuisine and food culture at Manipal is a gift for future generations. Says Vikas, “I see it as a bridge connecting those who came before us and those who will follow. Without establishing a master’s programme for the next generation, we cannot instil in them the pride of our cuisine.”

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