If you are staying away from home and responsible for your own meals like me, I am pretty sure most of us learned cooking from Vahchef more than our moms. India’s sensational youtube star Vahchef shares his recipes with millions of viewers everyday with the mantra “Vahrehvah is all about inspiring others to cook”. What makes him stand apart from many other professional chefs is, the way he shares his recipes with a dash of humor, simplifying the most complex recipes and finally serving it with the most delicious expressions where you sure will be left with a temptation to try it immediately.
Couple of months ago, when he was in the U.S. for his tour I had an opportunity to chat with him. He shared with me his inspiring journey and whats ahead for him and VahRehVah. Read and enjoy.
BV: How did you start your journey in the Youtube land? Why did you choose this path and not take a traditional path which is usually opening your own restaurant?
Vahchef: I did hotel management in one of the finest institutes in India – “Institute of Hotel Management, Hyderabad” and was selected by the ITC welcome group following graduation. There, I worked as a management trainee for two years and while working, I had an opportunity to come to the U.S. to work in a restaurant. I opened my first restaurant there and was very happy and enjoying doing what I was doing and had people appreciating me a lot. Gradually, one became two, two became three and was running four restaurants and that’s when the real pressure of restaurants started to hit me. Instead of being a cook which I loved doing, I was doing a lot of management stuff. When we work at a Five star hotel, we only manage cooking and didn’t have to worry about anything else because there are separate departments for everything else. But as a restaurant owner, we need to handle lot of things, and I never got any time left to cook. Thats when I realized it’s not my cup of tea and I sold all my restaurants and took a break to think what to do next. During that time, my friends kept calling me asking about the same recipes over and over again. I thought this should stop and how many times will I keep sharing the same sambar recipe. That’s when I told a friend that I would post a video of the recipe on youtube. Not only my friend but everyone started watching and commenting saying Oh! this recipe is good, and why don’t you post some other recipes as well. During that time I got an idea to post recipes on youtube so that everybody can learn cooking. But, then there are already so many professional chefs who were posting videos, so I started thinking what is that I should be teaching about cooking.
During my training at Five star hotels, there are people who are not willing to teach and share recipes with other chefs. They want to keep all the knowledge and recipes as secret and to themselves. Even we can see lot of women, who get very selfish to share the recipes and secrets of their food. Then I realized, I am not going to hide anything. I will share the knowledge that I have and that’s how “VahrehVah” was born. I created a Vahchef channel on youtube and started posting recipe after recipe with what ever knowledge I have and sharing it with people. But I never thought it is going to be this big. So that’s how it got started.
BV: When did you start noticing that you are starting to have more followers? Did it happen quickly or over a period of time.
Vahchef: It happened instantaneously, but I never realized this. This is the first time I am going out and meeting people. I hear experiences from people who use my videos not just for cooking but also as stress busters. I also have people who are going through tough times saying my videos have helped them out of depression. I met people who have cancer and they are in the bed. For them they found joy in watching my videos. What I am trying to say is it’s not just cooking but there is something else which I never expected that is being used for many other purposes. Now I feel more responsible with a lot of followers and I want to do good job.
BV: Have you ever had any Kitchen disasters? Have you ever tried a recipe which didn’t go well? Does it happened to you at all?
Vahchef: While in training may be.. but the chances of it happening is very very rare. Once I remember, I was on the cooking show, I tried to blend a lot of tomatoes at high speed and everything spilled out. There are obviously video goof ups. Because cooking is very easy but doing a cooking show addressing people and talking is little more difficult.
BV: When we host dinner parties at home, we always end up with the same items mostly. It gets very routine like serving bread, some type of rice and a dessert. What is the best way to incorporate salads, roles and food with a fun twist to break the routine rut.
Vahchef: Yeah sure, for example wraps have become so popular in last 20 years in the U.S. as well as in India like Kati role etc. And salads, Indian salads are more like Chats. So we can add mint chutneys and dressings with paneer etc to fresh vegetables. Currently I am working with AAPI (American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) so you will be seeing lot of them coming from now on.
BV: Do you have any suggestions for a good wine or Champagne that will go well with Indian food. Since we have such intense flavors how to choose to balance that?
Vahchef: Most of the times its Chardonnay or lot of the Indians prefer beer like corona. But I am not an expert. I aways think I should have at least 20 different wines to suggest but for some reason I have not paid attention to it.
BV: We always have unexpected guests and with the busy schedules it’s so hard to cook something from scratch last minute. Some times when I have last minute dinner parties for desserts I quickly buy cupcakes and add some sprinkles or chocolate and fresh fruit to add homemade essence. Is there anything similar we can do with India food? Like buying something and quickly enhancing it to add our own flavors? Can you suggest few things that one should always keep in their pantry?
Vahchef: There are so many recipes but most of the time we won’t remember them. I am working on building a website and will definitely have a section for that. I was not an advocate of buying something from market and enhancing them. But with people being so busy I have no choice, but to specialize in making that kind of recipes also. There are so many Mexican and American shows and cookbooks where they show 15 minute meals, all they do is open three different packages and mix them up and make a nice meal. I definitely have to do that to catch up with other chefs who are making life easy for people. So you will see recipes like that coming from me soon.
BV: Since you mentioned cookbooks, do you have any plans on writing a cookbook in future?
Vahchef: Even if I launch a cookbook, the recipes will be mine but I will not be writing. Because I am not very good with that. I have already lined up with someone, who is writing down all the recipes of mine that are in video format in the near future. I am hoping that end of this year, it will be in some state.
BV: Oh nice! What type of recipes can we expect? Do you want to give us a hint?
Vahchef: It will be around regional recipes and not just that, I want to build an app around my website where my readers can search the recipes using their smart phone. Until now, VahrehVah is a one man army. To do this type of things we need resources. Now I have a team who can work on that so once I am back in India we will be working on making it more user friendly. Because if Vahrevah has to grow it has to reach more people.
BV: Do you plan to launch any frozen meals, canned foods or masalas from Vahrehvah?
Vahchef: Yes, I am actually coming up with my own brand of spice masalas. I am launching masalas like sambar and rasam powders. They will be out very soon and that will be my first venture.
BV: Do you see any emerging food trends in India? You mentioned Kati role for example. But do you notice anything like that?
Vahchef: I noticed that there is only a small percentage of Americans or other Nationalities eating our food. We have failed to penetrate and make Indian food much more easier. So my focus will be to bring the Indian food which is more acceptable. The moment you say Italian food, Pasta and Pizza comes to your mind. Like that what is one Indian food that will be attractive for the world. So Indian food should become a regular term for mainstream Americans and non Indians. So I want to come up with two or three recipes, we need to market it good through out the world to develop interest in Indian food. So as you said we need to come up with a trend. For example Rasagulla, it was not there 200 years ago. It is this generations invention. But now it is extremely famous. So today I hope we can create something so that in another fifty or sixty years Indian food becomes as famous as Chinese and Italian food. We are there but not like Italian and Chinese, so hopefully I can also contribute something to make Indian food a mainstream food in the world.
BV: One last question, every time I go to Hyderabad I am so overwhelmed by many new restaurants and lots of good options in Hyderabad’s food scene. Can you suggest some must try places in Hyderabad?
Vahchef: Haha, if you ask me about restaurants ..hmm. In last twenty years even biryani has changed. If you want to eat good food, go to weddings. For example, biryani is good in muslim weddings. Restaurants yes, there are certain restaurants not very popular ones that I can think of but, Haleem from Pista House is old but very good. Westin in Hitech city is one of my favorite places. The Chef at Westin was a senior of mine and the food is fantastic. Not just Indian cuisine, any food there is really good. They have Sunday Brunch Buffet and that is something I really like. It is slightly expensive $50 for brunch but it is really good. And you should try Haleem during festival time when you get a chance.
Image Source: VahRehVah.com