In a freewheeling chat with the celebrated chef who is always at the cutting-edge of all things culinary, he gives us a glimpse of all his great new gigs — from launching a cloud kitchen for gourmet burgers, authoring another book to more TV shows, starting his own cooking studio, and a shiny kitchen in the metaverse, and more…
That distinctive voice and chilled-out charm have been Chef Vicky Ratnani’s calling cards since the start. But just a few minutes in his company and you’ll realise exactly how much of a whirlwind of activity he really is.
On a recent trip across Switzerland, I got the chance to see him in full-on action mode. He was bonding with and quizzing international chefs, bounding around artisanal cheesemaking enterprises, foraging for ingredients in the forests.
He was cooking up a storm in the kitchen of the world’s longest running family-owned vegetarian restaurant, demystifying culinary techniques for journalists, running in rustic Alpine villages, and bingeing on some excellent Swiss food and drink, both Michelin-starred and hearty homestyle fare with heritage value. When we said our farewells in Zurich, he was heading on to some adventure sports and food experiences in Interlaken.
It’s not surprising that he has circumnavigated the globe seven times and travelled to some of the most exotic locations in his quest for exciting food and adventure. Where does he get this almost limitless energy? “It’s a cliché that if you love what you’re doing then you don’t need a holiday. But it’s true. I love what I do. I’m in such a good space because I love food, I love cooking, I love travel, I love meeting people… and I’m very proud of what I do. So, I don’t think anyone can get tired when they’re in a zone where they’re proud of what they’re doing,” says the globe-trotting gourmet.
And yet with that pride and all that he has achieved, there’s a certain humility and the awareness that, at any level in life, there’s still a lot to learn. “I call myself Student of the Year,” he laughs. But seeing his childlike curiosity and enthusiasm with every kitchen he enters, and every dish he samples, one can’t help but admire this wise approach.
Life and times of Vicky the chef
After travelling the world while working in cruise ship kitchens in prestigious liners such as the Queen Elizabeth 2, the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Victoria (where he was Executive Chef), he returned to India more than a decade ago to start acclaimed and pathbreaking restaurants such as Aurus, Nido, The Korner House.
In the public eye: Since, he’s been personal chef to the late Nelson Mandela, has starred in and still hosts numerous TV shows (Chef v/s Fridge and Disney Delicious being the latest), has had a hugely popular web series centred around food and travel called Vicky the Gastronaut, runs a vibrant YouTube channel, and is an Instagram influencer with 402k followers as @vickythechef.
The write stuff: He’s a dyed-in-the-wool author already — his last title Vicky Goes Veg was a success even though he personally feels it was before its time. He’s just launched Urban Desi, a collection of his favourite Indian meat and fish recipes, which, he feels will be a treasure trove for anyone who aspires to cook, and even find favour in the international market. Next up? A vegetarian version, which he has already started collating recipes for.
Creative pursuits: His Gourmet Gyan brand is now manifested in a studio, where he plans to conduct culinary experiments, cook up some new ideas, and perhaps even invite select guests over for curated meals at some point in the future (or maybe that’s just our wishful thinking)!
Business as usual: Ratnani is in expansion mode with his new gourmet line in Mumbai called Speak Burgers and has plans to take them to other cities as well. He cooks up a storm at high-profile weddings across the globe and is much in demand for cookathons, other events, and major brand associations. A culinary consultant to several brands, his multi-tasking skills are legendary. For example, his menus for INOX Insignia cinemas across India are hugely popular, he’s helping the folks at Bira beer set up a new food enterprise, and, believe it or not, he has many more projects up his sleeve!
Vicky goes meta…
All that, and now, he’s also become the first Indian chef to have a kitchen in the metaverse. This is a virtual platform where people can own property, buy art, meet other avatars, and much more. The Chef Vicky Ratnani Open Kitchen in OneRare’s Foodverse, the world’s first Metaverse for the global Food & Beverage industry, is being ‘built’ and brought onto the blockchain as we speak.
It’s all about creating an immersive and gamified experience for users worldwide to connect with Chef Ratnani in a different way. Some of his favourite recipes will be tokenised as Food NFTs that his fans can own and perhaps, at some point in the future, there may even be a way to exchange these for a real meal in a real restaurant. We look forward to tracking his new journey, as he translates his ideas to unique Foodverse experiences.