Chef Vikram Vij: Globally Inspired, Locally Created
Food Mediaplanet sat down with Vancouver local and world-renowned chef, Vikram Vij, to get the inside scoop on his culinary inspiration.
Mediaplanet What inspired you to first get involved with cooking?
Vikrim Vij I originally wanted to be a Bollywood actor, but my father said no way was his son going to become an actor, so in order to express my self, I wanted to become a host of my own restaurant — where you are still the centre of attention, your cuisine is your art and a dish is your creativity. So in some way, being the host and a chef, is like being on stage and performing.
MP What is your family’s favourite dish that you cook?
VV Our Vij family chicken curry has been handed down through generations, with everyone adding their own little variations, so the one that exists now is very different from the original. But that’s what cooking is all about - you make a recipe your own.
MP How can shoppers ensure that their food originates from an ethical and sustainable source?
VV There are many different labelling programs out there now, but sometimes you have to look hard to find them. Generally it is the store or the merchant you look for, rather than a single product in a supermarket. Certain places will only sell ethical and sustainable. Yes, those things tend to cost a little more, but food fuels us…what is more important than our health?
"Fresh is best. Every time."
MP Is eating local food a trend or is it here to stay?
VV I hope it’s not just here to stay, but that in the end, it will be the only way to eat. Of course my food inspiration comes from India — but my spices are roasted in our own kitchens here in Vancouver. One has to think like you are living in a self-sustaining village — you grow and eat what is available.
MP Many people these days believe in the local food movement but convenience and cost can sometimes get in the way; what are some cost effective or time-saving tips that support eating locally?
I would say plan ahead — buy and support your local farmers market or store, then plan your meals for the week and make sure you use everything up…freeze dishes, make a big curry or stew and have it for a couple of nights.
MP What do you look for when choosing ingredients?
VV Fresh is best. Every time. Even with our Vij’s At Home frozen foods — they’re flash frozen with no preservatives, so they are frozen the moment they are freshly cooked and the spices do not get over powering because you do not have to add anything to make them last longer.
"I love to explore other cultural cuisines — and they have an influence on my cooking, as I hope perhaps I might have on another chef’s menu."
MP What food trends are you most excited for this summer?
VV Lots of fruits and vegetable dishes served in a simple manner but with their ethnic twist. Meeru (Dhalwala, Vij’s wife and the manager of the kitchens for Vij’s and Rangoli) is hoping to incorporate vegetable dishes like this at the new Vij’s on Cambie Street when it opens this summer.
MP What about B.C. makes it a great place to be a chef?
VV Well, I’ve already mentioned the ingredients — that’s number one. But the other thing is the diversity we have here. I can go out and eat cuisine from every part of the world in this city. I love to explore other cultural cuisines — and they have an influence on my cooking, as I hope perhaps I might have on another chef’s menu.
MP How can we bring more attention to the local food movement?
VV By not letting it die. The more we follow that path, the more we talk about it, and the more people actually experience those fresh, delicious ingredients, the more that people will realize it’s the only way forward.