Saturday, April 9, 2016

Chef Vikas Khanna’s Culinary Arts and Culinary Museum @ WGHSA-Manipal

          Imagine seeing a large building shaped like a large ladle in the distance. Awe-struck you are attracted to it and walk into it. The building houses rows and rows of traditional Indian household kitchen paraphernalia.

          You keep on moving, exploring, taking selfies, updating  your social media status and by the end of couple of hours, your taste senses fire up.

The ground has been broken for India’s first Culinary Museum at Manipal. In another couple of years, the Culinary Museum in Manipal will attract visitors in large numbers.

          The Culinary Arts and Culinary Museum is the brain-child of Michelin starred Chef Vikas Khanna.  Chef Vikas Khanna has spent his formative years at Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, Manipal University. He is an alumnus of  WGHSA and hence the choice to locate the Cm at WGSHA, Manipal.

Rajesh Bhardwaj, CEO & Founder of Junoon Restaurant, New York and Dubai also accompanied Chef Vikas Khanna at the ground breaking ceremony.

Other luminaries who graced the occasion were Chancellor Manipal University Dr Ramdas M Pai, Prof. Parvadhavardhini Gopalakrishnan, Principal, WGSHA  and Vice Principal Chef K. Thirugnanasambantham .

The budget of the Culinary Arts and Culinary Museum is $4 million dollars museum, with focus on India's unique culinary heritage.

The museum will display traditional household kitchen paraphernalia. Chancellor Manipal University Dr Ramdas M Pai will grace the occasion. "We are glad that Chef Vikas Khanna has thought of making this museum at WGSHA," said Prof. Parvadhavardhini Gopalakrishnan, Principal, WGSHA.

She added, "We are very proud of him and are happy that in spite of his commitments across the globe, he still manages to keep in touch with his alma mater and has gone to a great extent to collect hundreds of traditional kitchen utensils from across the world, which would go a long way towards understanding of the forgotten utility of these by the new generation of chefs who do not use these anymore".

Vice Principal Chef K. Thirugnanasambantham, who is coordinating the setting up of the museum said: I'm very excited to find so many traditional and artistic kitchen appliances and utensils are being brought together, thanks to this endeavour by Chef Vikas Khanna.

The design of the building is based on a ladle. A futuristic building shaped like a giant ladle will rise in Manipal in few years from now.

The seeds of the Culinary Arts and Culinary Museum were sown in the last 15 years, when  the Amritsar-born chef  has been collecting pots and pans besides other utensils from India for the upcoming one-of-its-kind’ museum in Manipal, Karnataka.

“It is a very big project I want to preserve all of our country’s rich culinary history. There is no other place in the world, believe me, which has such diversity. And what better way to do it than with food,” says Khanna on his visit here recently.

The MasterChef India judge and celebrity face of Junoon, a modern Indian flagship restaurant in New York with a branch in Dubai, has been with anthropological zeal scouring for old kitchen utensils during his visits to India. “You can find in my treasure trove vessels from Kashmir, Jammu, Pune, Hyderabad, Kochi, the list go on. For the past 15 years whenever I visited India I have been carrying a piece of it back in the form of kitchen utensils. Be it ladles, colourful rolling pins for making chappatis, measuring cups or a huge variety of tea strainers from different regions of the country,” says Khanna.

Being a graduate from the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, Manipal University, the chef wanted to repay his alma mater and tied up with it for the USD 4 million ‘Culinary Arts and Culinary Museum’.

For now, the treasures collected by Khanna, which include plates from Goa made by the Portuguese while they were here, an over 100-year-old ladle with an iconic design used to serve devotees in a temple, an yesteryear seed sprinkler, an ancient samovar (tea pot) and others have been stored in a godown and will go into the museum, which is expected to be open by 2020.

“The idea is to have a living museum, to be continuously updating its collection. For some time, we displayed utensils in my New York restaurant and we had patrons who donated their generations-old vessels to add to the collection,” says Khanna.

The idea of the Culinary Arts and Culinary Museum germinated when When Michelin Star Chef of Junoon New York Vikas Khanna visited a museum in US where they talked about how the electric bulb was invented. This visit had a profound impact he and he was reminded of the kitchen utensils, especially the huge ones used to serve pilgrims at temples. For Khanna, the invention of the kitchen utensils - the shape, metal, the way it was carved - was no less valuable than the invention of the light bulb.

          Speaking to reporters after the 'bhumi puja' ceremony, Vikas said, "What has been created before - dishes of every shape, every utensil, every measuring stone, everything has such a long history, has led us to this point. We are connected to so many kitchen homes, temples rituals which make our plate complete. We are incomplete without that past. A culinary museum of this kind celebrates every region - Calcutta, North East, Odisha, Pondicherry, Goa, Kashmir, Gujarat, Rajasthan and the South," he said.
Every utensil at the museum has a story. For instance, the museum will have the first thal (plate) in which Mysore pak was made. A few people have preserved this thal and willingly gave it to Vikas. Among other prominent utensils are old spoons from Udupi that were procured from Dubai. "We have some buckets or a variety of tea strainers in different shapes. The museum will speak for itself. They are the last remains of the dynasty as people do not manufacture them anymore," he observed.

It is a very big project I want to preserve all of our country's rich culinary history. There is no other place in the world, believe me, which has such diversity. And what better way to do it than with food,"

Apart from having India’s unique culinary heritage, the museum worth INR 267.74 million, will also display traditional household kitchen paraphernalia.