Chef Viraj Naik on Home Chef Struggles & Indian Veg Cuisine

Viraj Naik, a YouTube chef and food stylist hailing from Gujarat, draws inspiration from the women in his joint family, including his mother, grandmother, and aunts. while watching culinary legends like Sanjeev Kapoor and Tarla Dalal as a child. While he never imagined getting so much love and popularity on the digital stage, he always knew food was his calling. Viraj discovered his passion for food and now shares his love for traditional Indian cuisine through his popular YouTube channel.

From simple recipes to useful tips and tricks, Viraj's videos offer a variety of content for his audience. And Viraj was one of the chefs who had been invited by Sanjyot Keer to participate in the Your Food Lab studio visit. While Chef Viraj specialises in Gujarati cuisine, his knowledge of Indian cuisine is worth mentioning. We got into a conversation with him that encompassed his journey, milestones, kitchen secrets, and more.

Q. How was your foray into cooking? What was your inspiration?

Growing up in a joint family, seeing my grandmother, my mom, and my aunts cook always gave me immense pleasure, and at that time I used to see Tarla Dalal and Sanjeev Kapoor on television, which inspired me to no end. I used to help my mom and aunties in the kitchen as well, which slowly helped me learn the nitty-gritty of cooking.

Q. What have been the milestones and misses in your journey from a YouTuber to an entrepreneur?

When I started on YouTube, I never thought I'd reach this stage where I'd also get the silver play button. But then I got it, and it was an unbelievable milestone. After that, working on a local TV show as the only male cooking expert was also one of my biggest achievements. I think I've been lucky enough to be able to manage both.

Q. Tell us something about your style of cooking.

My style of cooking has always been to keep it simple, use as many locally available ingredients as possible, and try foods and dishes that connect us to our roots.

Q. Since Gujarati cuisine is your forte, what are the top 3 dishes you would suggest someone try and why, barring the usuals like dhokla or thepla?

While Gujarati cuisine is very diverse and it is hard to choose, I would suggest undhiyu, umbadiyu, and khatu kadhi as three of the must-try dishes.

Q. What, in your opinion, are the challenges of being a home chef?

A home chef goes through many challenges as one is limited to a great extent. From finding a solution to your mistakes or failures all by yourself to acquiring knowledge of a dish, cuisine, or ingredient. There are also limited resources and tools for a home chef.

Q. What is your idea of innovation when it comes to Indian vegetarian cuisine?

Innovation in Indian vegetarian cuisine is like a blank canvas with a thousand colours and brushes. You can just go on and on, where the sky is the limit.

Q. What is your comfort food, and why?

My comfort food would be a simple vegetarian sabzi with roti at any given time or day. It satisfies my soul and connects me with my roots and family.

Q. Since you are also a food stylist, how do you see the importance of styling food on the plate to make it more appealing?

I believe that we first eat with our eyes, and this is where food styling comes into play and is a very important part of serving and presenting a meal. If the dish doesn’t look good, it won’t really appeal to anyone. Food styling is an art that requires creativity and storytelling to make the food look fresh, tempting, and attractive.

Q. Do you think there is a scope for fusion in Gujarati food?

Yes, definitely; there is a huge scope for fusion in Gujarati cuisine. However, I firmly believe that fusion shouldn’t hamper the original essence of the dish and that it should stay intact.