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Celebrity Chef Vikas Khanna on Feed India Campaign And Running Restaurants In Post-COVID World



Michelin-Star Chef Vikas Khanna needs no introduction. The Indian-American chef, who is known for his exceptional culinary skills and his charming personality (and smile) on TV, has been lately making headlines all around the world, but this time, it is for his philanthropy work. A man with a golden heart, Chef Vikas Khanna was the mastermind behind the ‘Feed India’ campaign – the food drive in which he fed 20 million meals to Indians who were stuck in lockdown during the Coronavirus pandemic. So, when I caught up with the celebrity chef, he spoke to me about the inspiration behind the campaign, challenges he faced while implementing it on the ground remotely from the U.S., and all things food: ranging from trends in #newnormal, emerging food destinations around the world, and more.

1. At a time where we were all asked to sit back at home, what inspired you to start ‘Feed India’ Campaign?

I work with old age homes, leprosy centres, orphanages, etc. and we realised that a lockdown meant a threat to their delivery of rations. I immediately knew this was going to escalate into a larger issue. Once we realised the lockdown meant a complete halt to life as we knew it, I found myself seeking solutions for the way forward. It occurred to me that all of a sudden, so many people were left vulnerable and penniless! I reached out to people on my social media and was dumbfounded by the overwhelming number of responses in need of food. This gave me the inspiration to start the Feed India campaign. We also joined hands with India Gate in this initiative aimed at resolving the huge but important task of providing basic meals for all the needy and underprivileged across the country.

2. This is not the first time you are mixing food and philanthropy. If you could recall, what is the best compliment you have received for this initiative of yours?

I feel blessed to have been involved with projects that have aided hurricanes, floods and natural disasters. Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, UNICEF projects have been accomplished across continents (India, SE Asia, Africa, USA etc.). My work here has largely been that of a catalyst. From raising funds, collecting donations and contributing to cooking and hosting events. An unforgettable experience was one when big NGOs auctioned me to cook in homes – where we raised upwards of 100 million dollars.

This (Feed India) initiative was truly unique as it had no NGO support at all. The basis to run it was on zero administrative costs, which led to the entire project being micro-managed. I can’t see people go hungry and I needed to do something about it, compliments are secondary.

You can often find Shubham at a small authentic Chinese or Italian restaurant sampling exotic foods and sipping a glass of wine, but he will wolf down a plate of piping hot samosas with equal gusto. However, his love for homemade food trumps all.

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