Colour Plays a Pivotal Role in Food Art ~ Randhir Kashyap

by on September 5, 2015

Food Art was the main theme of my this interview. Colour plays a pivotal role in his creativity, whether it is at work or wielding the ladle over his stove. As he visualizes the final colour of the dish, he makes a choice of certain ingredients. What to add and what to refrain from are all decided and inspired by colour. Like an artist selecting hues from the colour palette, 68 year-old Randhir Kashyap selects the various ingredients, putting together a delectable treat for the eyes and palette.


It is this sense of aesthetics coupled with a penchant for perfect taste that gives his life added zest. Talking to him, it becomes evident that his genius as a fashion and interior designer extends to cooking as well. A Punjabi from Old Delhi, he now resides in Gurgaon in a beautiful house where his special touch is evident in every nook and corner.


Namaste. Tell us something about your early years.
I was born and brought up in a joint family. Though our roots are in Lahore, I grew up in Old Delhi. I graduated with Bachelors in Law (L.L.B). But my aspiration lay in fashion and food.


What is the first memory you have with regard to the kitchen?
I have many memories related to the kitchen in our home, considering that interest in food was instilled in me at a young age. But the one memory that has always stood out is that of an incident when I was eight years old. My father was cooking dinner and I was observing the process of him putting together various condiments in the preparation. At one point, he covered the vessel with a lid so the steam would not escape. I was totally fascinated. It was a simple incident but left a deep impact upon me. If I am asked to draw that scene, I can sketch it in detail – the house, kitchen and that stove.
Randhir Kashyap

I can see that you had an artistic fascination with food even as a child.
(Laughs) Around the same time, I was standing in the kitchen one day watching my mother cook. She asked me to climb a stool and hand her the salt container from a shelf. Accidently, another jar tumbled over and before anyone could gain control, chilli powder had fallen all over my face and eyes. I still remember how the incident upset my mother to tears.


Oh no! Did that incident scare you away from the kitchen!
Not at all. On the contrary, I went and hugged my mother since I could not bear to see her crying.


And how did you begin the exciting career graph as a designer?
Though I studied law, I moved into fashion design. I was always interested in clothes and fashion. I used to model and did some shows in star hotels. In college, I was popular for my sartorial style. I did not pursue law even though I was very interested in criminal law; instead I chose to repair lamp shades. My brother-in-law saw my enthusiasm for colours and silhouettes and inspired me to become a designer.


It is amazing how people become instrumental in our dreams. So where and how did you begin?
It all began in 1972, when I moved to Germany for two years. I was enamoured with how Indian clothes were showcased there as a fashion statement. I did some export work at that time. I received further exposure and leads during my travels to Italy and later to Portugal. I made good friends and they gave me great references and contacts. I guess my desire to have my dreams accomplished kept me going.


That is so true. And where did you enjoy working the most?
Many places, though most of my work experience has been in Europe. In Italy and Portugal, I worked with various fashion houses. In Italy, I worked with Fausto Sarli, the designer who specialized in embroidery for bridal dresses. I got involved in getting embroideries done on his garments from India. I worked with him from 1990 for about eight years. In Portugal, I gathered experience with many designers, the most popular being designer duo Manuel Alves and Jose Manuel Goncalves. With them, I learnt not only fashion but also interior design. They were both Professors at the University of Lisbon. Working with them was a great learning opportunity and a priceless experience for me. I also worked with Joao Rolo, who was into haute couture as well as mass production. Needless to add, it was a challenge for me and also earned me good recognition in Lisbon. It provided me with an opening into designing high-fashion leather garments.
Randhir Kashyap

When did the store in Delhi open?
In 2005, I opened a store called Studio Europa in Defence Colony market where I showcased artefacts sourced from across the globe. Beginning with Brazil,Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and Belgium, I sourced rare pieces. I still remember the parrots from Ecuador made from burnt tree wood. I had also sourced red candelabras which had 24- carat gold added for colour as well as the black chandeliers. My best -selling pieces, though, were tulips from Portugal.


Tell us about your interior design?
I did some exciting interiors for high end apartments for builders such as Supertech. In Cape Town, I did the interiors for a 64-storey building called North Eye. I also undertook the Krrish Housing Provence project in Gawal Phari and Manor One Platinum 321 for Kashish Developers.


Between all this, how did you get interested in cooking?
I think I inherited my love for cooking from my father. I learnt many preparations from him. But I truly refined my culinary skills during my stay in Italy. Whenever I invited friends and colleagues home, they would want me to treat them to some authentic Indian food. This was much before the Indian curry went global. I still remember how they all enjoyed my Biryani – it was indeed a favourite.


Has there been any major change in your own cooking over the years?
Earlier, I was completely hands on and did all the cooking work on my own. Now I get the preparation done and the vegetables chopped in advance so that all I have to do is the final cooking. Presentation is very important to me, so much so that sometimes I just focus on the colour of a dish and arrive at choosing the ingredients that are needed.


What would you say is the secret of good cooking? Food art?
Rely on your own taste buds. I also believe that the love for good food plays a part. Speaking about myself, I have always been open to experimenting with different cuisines. I also pride myself on identifying the spices just by their aroma and taste.


Are you partial towards any particular ingredient?
What I really enjoy is adding wine while cooking to give dishes a robust colour. For example, I add red wine to some curries, white wine to mushroom dishes and cognac to desserts. Simply mouth-watering!


Can you share a quick example with me?
Of course; you must try my mushrooms cooked in white wine. Chop mushrooms into thin slices. Heat olive oil in a pan and add cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and chopped onions. Sauté until the onions turn golden. Add thinly sliced mushrooms along with salt and white pepper. Mix and add some white wine. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Drizzle some cream and serve with steamed rice and green salad.


Delicious. Do you recognize what makes your work special?
I think I have a gift for colour. I am guided by colours. Whether it is clothes or apartments or food, a sense of colour is important. To me, it adds balance and proportion. For instance, a meal cannot be of all red food; there has to be a combination and balance of red, green and yellow dishes. I am also guided by the layout. Before I sit for a meal, I want the table arrangement to be in a certain manner. I have trained my domestic staff and they now do an exquisite job of arranging the cutlery and dishes.


That sounds interesting. According to you, what traits must one inculcate to become a good cook?
There is no guideline in particular. But I think the recipe for a good cook is:
• A dash of patience: Watch the alchemy of food at work as you combine various ingredients; it is fascinating.
• A sprinkling of adventure: Do not be afraid to try out that new ingredient and flavour.
• Liberal doses of open minded-ness: Be open to various kinds of food and taste.
I believe that this is not just specific to cooking, but is relevant to living life as well.


First published in September 2015 in Harmony – the Indian magazine for silvers for the column – ‘His Ladle Love’. A series about men who experience the joy of cooking and can weild a deft ladle in the kitchen. Part-2 of this post is the recipe of Baked Brinjal, a creative and delicious recipe shared by Randhir Kashyap.


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