Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi Shares His Experience On HT Unwind GIC

Harpal Singh Sokhi was present on day 2 of HT Unwind Great Indian Cookout/GIC, having fun with the competing chefs and coaching his master class joyfully. He taught the class to make cranberry tikki and til ki chutney with millet as the main ingredient to tikki and some beetroot paratha. Chef said, "The entire world is progressing. So why not we make millet in such a way that it is fascinating in the 21st century". He also taught to make multigrain makhane ke laddu, which everyone loved learning about. 

Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi is a celebrity chef famous for his catchphrase "namak shamak" who was also recently featured in the dancing show, becoming the dancing Chef of India. Chef has various restaurants and has been featured in numerous shows like Turban Tadka and more. You can also catch him with his new show "Punjab de Superchef 7". 

Keep reading, learn about his event experience, and find many more interesting answers. Slurrp caught up with the chef as he graced his presence at the event, enjoying his experience and teaching different dishes in his master class.

1. How was your experience participating at the recent HT Unwind Great Indian Cookout/GIC? Did any dish bring back nostalgic memories you would like to share? 

It is always exciting to participate in the HT Unwind Great Indian Cookout with so many people around you and all of them sharing their experiences; it feels good. HT Unwind is all about meeting and networking at the same time, unwinding yourself, getting to know more people and being amongst people who have been following me and loving what I do. When they share their experiences and the dishes they cook following my YouTube channel, it feels good. 

2. What inspired you to come up with the idea of cooking millet cranberry tikki at GIC? Do you believe recipes like this can improve the acceptance of millets across India and the world? 

I think from the start of the year, our Hon'ble Prime Minister Jee has been promoting millets, and personally, I took the opportunity to introduce the same in my menu at Karigari early this year, and the response has been tremendous. I feel the kabab is wholesome and rich in nutrition. Being pan-fried makes it all the more healthy. With the addition of cranberry, the sweet and sour taste balance makes it more delicious. The acceptance of this tikki on my restaurant menu has been tremendous, and people are loving it. We have put together two delicious millet tikkis and both have got a great response. When everybody talks about millets nationally, I think it becomes a great awareness campaign for all, and it becomes easier for us to introduce such dishes and sell them at the same time.

3. Do you believe chefs like yourself have had an impact in making millets more revered across India and the world? What millets do you think people should pay more attention to? 

Millets have been part of our meals since the early days, and they are probably everyday meals in some seasons and in some regions. They have been consumed for their health benefits since the early days. I think most people can relate to millets in all states where they are consumed regularly, like Bajra and Jowar in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Punjab. Small millets in Uttarakhand and Himachal, Ragi in South India. All of them are, however, consumed in particular seasons only due to the nature of the ingredients. These millets have been a regular lifestyle of rural areas. However, to make them fashionable and exotic, it is the Chefs who will be important to create unique dishes that make them fashionable first and then move the health quotient. Like, I added multigrain methi millet tikki and Amaranth tikki to my menu, and we serve it in the most unique way; people love it, and they are well accepted in my restaurant. 

So, to make a product upscale and high end, it is important to enhance the value through high end restaurants and hotels wherein Chefs can add them into their menus and showcase their creativity. 

I also believe that millets is more a regional affair than a National one, each state has its own consumption pattern and adaptability. For people who have never consumed millet, I think they should begin with only one millet, either jowar, bajra or Ragi and consume it in individual formats, or they can add the whole wheat flour in small quantities and start consuming it in their daily meals. I also believe that people should begin with millet flours before going into whole millets as cooking them is a cumbersome task and learning how to cook them is important.

4. As you shared at the event that your wife prepares hearty dishes for you, could you tell us what dishes of hers you love to eat? And do you cook for her? What dishes made by you, does she love?  

Yes, I make this statement that my wife cooks great food, and I love her passion for cooking everything in detail. There is no shortcut for her when she cooks and the list of best things she cooks is Black Chana, Rajma Masala, Baigan Bharta, Spring Onion Besan and this dish I have added in my restaurant menu too. The list is quite long.

I am generally the prep chef for my wife; however, when it comes to international cooking or making a great biryani at home, I take charge of the kitchen. Also, when my daughters look for Thai cooking or Asian cooking, I take charge of the kitchen. 

5. With your long career as a chef, how do you think you have impacted the people of India and their interest in cooking up Indian food? Do you feel the influence has grown with social media? 

When I seriously started doing television, my show Turban Tadka impacted a lot of people. There was a clear time when I would keep hearing statements that the kitchen was not part of the new age or the millenials. I realised that if they do not enter the kitchen it would be very difficult for them to understand the difference between good and bad things that will affect their health in the long run. So what would be that element that would help people come forward and cook in the kitchen? So I bought the angle of fun, you can cook too and cook up dishes with household ingredients and of course the famous tag line of NAMAK SHAMAK NAMAK SHAMAK DAL DETE HAIn, brought in the major impact of people coming into the kitchens and cooking themselves. Now that I keep meeting people, I keep hearing how my recipes helped them become great cooks in their household kitchens. 

First it was television that impacted people and now it is the social media that has taken over, it is easier for each one to cook anything at home. The easy access to all ingredients has also brought about changes in the kind of food we cook at home, however the underlying statement is always that people want everything to happen in minutes and that is not possible, cooking good food takes time and if you are passionate about it then you can cook great food.

6. How do you perceive the changing dynamics of men getting more involved in cooking as a hobby and a profession in India? How different has this shift been from when you started your culinary journey? 

The shift is happening slowly and it is very important for nuclear families where everyone should be involved in the kitchen and not just put pressure on the female lead of the other household. When the man enters the kitchens, changes to regular meals happen because he wants to experiment using the help of social media recipes and that is when a new dish enters the dining table of each household.  

Early days, it was taboo for male members to enter the kitchen, and in our country, it was the female who was given the charge of the kitchen, and she was the sole member to cook for the entire family. However, I have seen in my family when it came to certain days and dishes, my father would take charge of the kitchen. All the groceries and vegetables would be bought by him. It was Sunday that we would wait for when he would purchase mutton and cook it himself and we would all wait for that day. It was also a ritual in my house that my father would do the pickling of mangoes for the entire extended family and distribute to all. So I have personally seen my father do special things since the early days, and also, during festivals or community activities, he would take charge of cooking. 

These days, it is like sharing the household load and working together. I believe that a family that cooks together understands the value of food more. Children come to know of the value of ingredients and parents can help them to learn the origins.

7. As a judge, what are your expectations from the Punjab crowd and talent participating in the new show "Punjab de Superchef 7"? 

Well the whole object of this show is to bring forward the women who have been cooking up great dishes at home in Punjab. It is an objective to showcase their talent and bring them on television. Most of them are afraid of coming forward to a studio and shoot, and in this show, we go to their homes and make them feel comfortable so that they are not nervous. I am personally involved with the entire family and ensure that it becomes more a family show and everybody is involved in cooking. However, since it is a competition, it is important that the sanctity of dishes and their origins are showcased, and in the end, we hold a small competition wherein they have to cook last minute and showcase their talent, just that little pressure handling situation. 

8. Congratulations on the opening of "Karigari Dehradun"! Can you tell us more about the concept behind Karigari and its menu? Which cities is the restaurant open in and what are your future plans for it?

Thank you, Karigiari has been my brian child and being the head Karigar I love doing everything for all my guests. Since its inception, there has been a lot of hard work and passion that has gone into creating this brand together with my Co-Founders Yogesh Sharma and Manish Sharma. I would say that because I have a great team which has been put together by these two gentlemen, I have been able to create such a beautiful brand. Karigari is basically a storytelling restaurant; each dish has a story to tell, and the origins are my mother's kitchen, her journey, my journey, recipes from my father's kitchens, recipes from my wife's kitchen, my mother-in-law's kitchen, recipes of legendary restaurants and legacy places. I have put this together to create the most unique concept in India. We are also fortunate that we have a great interior designer and architect who has created a wonderful design along with us. We all together could create something that became iconic and became the first Chef Driven restaurant to reach here post-COVID. 

We have launched 6 Karigari in 2023 and all put together we have 7 operational now, by the end of March we will have 10 fully operational and our road map until June 2025 is to create another 10 and continue growing Nationally and go to some international locations in time to come. 

At present Karigari is in Delhi, Faridabad, Noida, Gurugram, Dehradun. Opening soon in Bangalore and Indore.