Vikas Khanna,  Junoon

Vikas Khanna’s life story reads like a true Bollywood blockbuster.  Vikas (the protagonist) comes from poverty, dreams big, works hard, and wins against all odds, with everyone rooting for his success. Emirates Woman talks to the celebrity chef about his journey, his lessons and what he thinks is sexy…

Born with a condition called club-foot – where the leg bones are not aligned properly at the joint and can look as if they have been turned sideways – Vikas Khanna was not like other kids.

Growing up in his native Amritsar, India Vikas was bullied because of his disability. As such, to escape the vicious words, he spent most of his time in the kitchen besides his grandmother. By the time he was 17, he had his own little catering business – Lawrence Garden Banquets.

His epiphany came a little before he went to college. Watching him sell chole bhature (a spicy chickpea dish) to kitty parties via his catering service, Vikas’ uncle took him to Delhi’s ITC Maurya Sheraton to show him how food could be a form of art. The young, shy chef wept as he tasted the unique fusion cuisine, saying: “Main aaina sona khana nahin dekhya (I have never seen such lovely food).”

With that Vikas had a benchmark, a goal for which he strived to attain.

“The greatest lesson in life is failure. Success without failure, may make success feel very empty. Never be afraid of failure.  There is no night that long that it will not pass. I’ve been through the longest nights.”


To say Vikas smashed his benchmark would be a great understatement. The Michelin-starred Celebrity Chef  has cooked for presidents, including Barack Obama, he is the charismatic host of MasterChef India, has appeared alongside Gordon Ramsey on Kitchen Nightmares, and is a best selling author – Utsav, A Culinary Epic of Indian Festivals, was recently launched at Cannes – he has also been voted New York’s Hottest Chef by The New York Eater blog and he is the owner of Junoon (Hindi word for Passion), one of the best Indian restaurants in New York and Dubai.

Such accolades would normally cultivate an ego, but not with Vikas. The humble chef is grateful for his life’s fortunes.

“The greatest honour is cooking for one’s mother”, he says. “Everything else can be duplicated but we have only one mother.” Nothing can tell you more about Vikas Khanna than that quote. Very grounded in his Indian roots he proudly and passionately boasts that his grandmother, mother and Dalai Lama are his most favourite people.

“There is no such thing as fool-proof recipe. Every recipe has room for disaster. Disasters are what make us human.”


If you think these life anecdotes read like screenplays from a Hollywood movie, then you would be right – a Vikas Khanna biopic is in the making (yeah, they beat Bollywood to it). When asked if he would play himself in the film, the handsome chef laughs: “What you see in magazines is all photoshopped…”

And that’s the thing about Vikas Khanna, despite all his talent, and good looks, he is still the boy from Amritsar with the club foot. The shy chef, who respects what his grandmother and mother taught him. Bollywood and Hollywood won’t change him and we don’t want it to. According to Vikas a man that can cook is a sexy man, and we couldn’t agree more…

Check out our fun video interview with Vikas:

Get Vikas Khanna’s famous Chole Chaat recipe here

Junoon restaurant is located at Shangri-La Dubai

Vikas Khanna, Junoon

Chef Vikas Khanna with EW’s Cecilia DSouza


Photos and video: Kristina Nabieva

Video editing: Surajit Dutta