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Born in India, Vikas Khanna grew up surrounded by large family feasts, seasonal produce from the fields of Punjab and traditional home cooking. Moving to New York City in 2000, he studied at New York University and the Culinary Institute of America. He has appeared on Kitchen Nightmares, Hell's Kitchen, and Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, and is the author of The Spice Story of India, Modern Indian Cooking and Flavors First. Also known as an activist, he founded Cooking for Life and SAKIV (South Asian Kid's Infinite Vision Organizations). In 2005, Vikas was honored with the prestigious "Access to Freedom Award," previously awarded to George W. Bush and HRH Prince Charles. Vikas opened his restaurant Junoon in the fall of 2010.




How do you characterize your cuisine?

The multi-cultural cuisines of India.

What region or ethnicity most influences your cooking?

I was born and raised in Punjab, northern India. Most of my cooking style has been influenced by my hometown. It has always been a part of my cooking.

What is your signature dish?

Piri piri shrimp.

What kind of food were you exposed to as a child?

It was just potatoes. In the family we would have one bag of potatoes that lasted a month. The first comfort food, we cooked potatoes, served with a basic sauce.

Is there an exotic spice or ingredient that you particularly enjoy using?

Pippali from Jerala. It's a form of peppercorn that's very long; they have the heat of peppercorn but with a flowery smell.

Does the design and style of your restaurant evoke a particular place? If so, where?

A monastery in Tibet.

When you cook for yourself, what do you make?

I just had lunch of lentils and rice. I love making that—something so basic with so much strength using lesser ingredients. The main elements stand out.

Tell us about some trips you've taken for inspiration.

My last trip was in the Himalayas. I spent four years researching the food of the Himalayas. So many countries, and every food has a story. I have just written a book about it.

What's the benefit of participating in New York Taste?

It's a great lineup of chefs, and to be a part of that pedigreed group is fabulous, something I cannot express. Growing up, I could only dream of being with these chefs, my mentors, in particular Jean Georges.

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