Born with misaligned legs and told by doctors that he would not be able to walk properly without special shoes, Vikas Khanna has come a long way from Amritsar, learning to walk on his own, winning people’s hearts with the magic of his cooking, love for India and a charming personality! Khanna’s transformative story of overcoming disability, facing homelessness and making it big globally and still saying a humble, kind and compassionate person will give you goosebumps.
From his humble beginnings in Amritsar to a celebrated chef who took Indian food to the USA and cooked for individuals like Barack Obama, PM Narendra Modi and Dalai Lama, Vikas Khanna’s culinary finesse is truly a work of art and inspiration for everyone! Here we bring you the transformative story of Vikas Khanna, the boy from Amritsar who charmed the world with his love for cooking, his innate culinary talent and warm kindness that will leave you inspired!
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Early Life and Education
Vikas Khanna was born in Amritsar, Punjab in 1971 to Davinder Khanna and Bhindu Khanna. Born with a rare deformity called the clubfoot which causes misaligned feet, this condition meant that the Khanna had to wear wooden shoes growing up. This deformity led him to face ridicule and jabs from his peers and Vikas often sought refuge in the kitchen with his biji (grandmother) who not only taught him how to cook but also encouraged him to learn the art. Even after his wooden shoes came off, Vikas’s love for cooking did not diminish, he sold chole bhature with his mother to different schools in the locality and even sold hand-knitted sweaters to start his catering business back when he was just 17!
Humble Beginnings in India to Landing in the USA
Through his catering business, Vikas was able to indulge in his lifelong passion for cooking but his life changed when his uncle took him to Delhi for dinner at the famous Maurya Sheraton, opening his small world and giving him a taste of a life beyond his catering business. His uncle encouraged him to study hospitality management at the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration in Manipal, Karnataka where he almost didn’t get accepted because of his poor English language skills. While studying hotel management, he experimented with his famous Indian fusion style of cooking!
After finishing college, he worked with Leela in Mumbai and get moved back to Amritsar. He began his own catering business where one day, the police pulled down the roof of the catering place which Khanna still remembers how this event broke his heart. He realised the dream of the USA calling for him and went to the visa office to apply for his immigration visa.
His culinary journey in the USA was filled with challenges, Vikas worked many odd jobs and even stayed at New York Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter before bagging a job at the famous Salaam Bombay as the executive chef because of his impressive culinary skills and taste palette. After a long time, he accomplished his lifelong dream of starting his own restaurant, Junoon in 2010.
Meeting Gordan Ramsay & Becoming the first Indian Chef to Win a Michelin Star!
Khanna’s journey to success is nothing short of a movie script. After working at Salaam Bombay for years, he left his position to start his own takeaway business called Tandoor Palace near Wall Street, New York. He sold affordable Indian meals to professionals and was noticed by a producer on Kitchen Nightmares scouting for an Indian chef! Vikas Khanna bagged a small role because of his camera-friendly persona and good looks! This small role gave him the opportunity to foray into television and he appeared on many famous shows like MasterChef Australia, Hell’s Kitchen, Throwdown with Bobby Flay, The Martha Stewart Show, MasterChef India Junior and MasterChef India.
Even after Kitchen Nightmares aired, Vikas Khanna’s catering business in New York and Tandoor Palace did not see a vast improvement so went on to work at an Indian restaurant around the same time before meeting Rajesh Bhardwaj, a New York-based restauranteur, the two founded Junoon which soon won prestigious accolades such as the Michelin Star in a short span of time.
Vikas Khanna’s journey embodies hard work, dedication and passion, from a small town in Punjab to India’s most loved Indian Chef! Vikas Khanna became a household name when in 2011 when he was signed on as a judge on MasterChef India. He became exceedingly popular because of his calm personality, friendly advice and good- looks. He started on as a judge for straight five years and even worked with Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor. Vikas Khanna is incredibly popular with over 1 million followers on Instagram who love and appreciate his talent and love for Indian cuisine!
That’s not all, Vikas Khanna is also a best-selling author of over 30 books like Utsav, the most expensive cookbook in the world and the copies of the book have been gifted to only 12 leaders like Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister Modi, Former President Obama and Amitabh Bachchan.
Vikas Khanna is also a brilliant filmmaker and producer of documentaries like Kitchens of Gratitude, Holy Kitchen and a film on his book, the Last Color on the plight of Indian women in the city of Banaras, India. His documentaries have been screened at the Cannes Festival and his debut film was listed for the Oscars.
An extraordinary chef, author, filmmaker, TV personality and humanitarian, Vikas Khanna is truly the modern Renaissance Man! His philanthropy work is as impressive as his career graph. The famous chef is the founder of the organisation called the South Asian Kid’s Infinite Vision (SAKIV) for tackling global issues. He is actively involved with the Smile Foundation as a goodwill ambassador and more recently he launched the ambitious #FeedIndia Initiative to feed the vulnerable sections of our society during the lockdown.
Mission to Feed Millions During the Lockdown
The national wide lockdown was one of the darkest times in India history for the disadvantaged and poor while the government tried its best to control the vast consequences of a national shutdown, some celebrities Michelin Star winner Vikas Khanna was decided to help the nation in their way unique and profound way. He launched his #FeedIndia Initiative to provide cooked meals and dry ration to millions of India in need across 126 cities in India. He served 10 million meals during the pandemic! HIs endeavour fed orphanages, old-age homes, slums and leprosy centres. Volunteers and the National Disaster Response Force was instrumental in making his initiative a ground reality. He even distributed essential hygiene essentials like marks, hygiene kits, sanitary pads and footwear to protect the poor and provide them with a safeguard against the ongoing pandemic. His dedication to his initiative and the goodwill to help his fellow Indians was so inspiring because the talented chef managed to turn his initiative into a mega success from his current residence in New York, USA.
This was all about the famous Indian chef Vikas Khanna! A true inspiration for all the Indians across the globe, the man wears many hats and truly works towards all the things he believes in! For more exciting content and stories about remarkable personalities, follow Leverage Edu on Instagram, Quora and Facebook!