Unless you’re living under a rock, we’re sure you’ve heard about Vikas Khanna – chef extraordinaire, MasterChef judge, Michelin-starred restaurant owner, entrepreneur, author, and filmmaker. This boy (no one can convince us that this drop-dead gorgeous dude is above 35) from Amritsar has taken the world by storm and won a million hearts (mostly female) in the process.
Image Caption: Vikas Khanna
His restaurant in New York is aptly named Junoon, and the passion that he has for his work reflects in everything that he does while he hops around the world, rustling up recipes, feeding underprivileged children, making documentaries, writing cookbooks and articles and judging TV shows. Now, he’s taken that inextinguishable passion, wrapped it up in heritage, neatly tied it with culture and gifted the package to our country as a museum of culinary arts. This is the first museum of its kind in India and it has set the bar so high that we’re sure that any other attempts in the same field will pale in comparison.
The Museum of Culinary Arts opened to the public in April this year. It is attached to the culinary school at the WelcomGroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, under the aegis of the Manipal University. This is Khanna’s alma mater and he couldn’t have paid a better tribute to it than this.
The building that the museum is housed in is designed as a giant antique brass pot, indicative of the treasures on display inside. It is spread out over an area of 25,000 square feet and houses more than 2,000 antique “bartans”, as Vikas Khanna puts it. He is obviously appreciative of his roots – the museum is dedicated to his father, who bought him his first tandoor when he was 15, and it was inaugurated by his mother.
The display includes utensils made by the Portuguese in India, bowls from the Harappan civilization, ancient utensils used in temples in South India, a seed sprinkler, Turkish dinnerware, brass pots, ornate jars, massive thaals, antique samovars, old tawas, ladles, strainers, teapots, grinders, plates, even outdated ice-cream churners – in fact, anything that your mother would probably throw out of her kitchen, calling it “raddi”. Khanna’s favorite piece on display is an ancient 21-piece picnic set from Lucknow, which even boasts of a cooking range! The oldest pieces in the collection are a metal vessel used to draw water from a well, dated to be 700 years old, and a wooden oil extractor, estimated to be 600 years old.
The Museum of Culinary Arts is a living one – items will be added as and when they can. (Feel free to donate to it if you have some old, undated, but beautiful bartans in your house, which your mother thinks should have been thrown out the previous century.) The displays will be regularly rotated and items will be lent out to other museums all over the world. In short, each time you visit the museum, there’s a very good chance that you’ll find completely new old things there!
The Real Deal
The inspiration for the museum came to Khanna in the US, where they have over 5,000 museums showcasing the history of everything from cloth to computers. His near-obsession with everything culinary has had him personally collecting antique “bartans” for nearly 20 years now. Khanna feels that in India, where our age-old culture is showcased through displays of clothes and jewelry, an exploration into the kitchens of our past was much required. The beautiful artistry of Indian handicrafts has always extended to our kitchens and Khanna is dismayed to see it dying down in the wave of mass-produced kitchenware. The museum, then, is an attempt to trace our long legacy of design and wisdom that has always originated in our kitchen and maybe revive some of the charm that lies in, say, an exquisitely carved wooden spice box or a sculpted stone mortar pestle.
Where: Museum of Culinary Arts,
WelcomGroup Graduate School of Hotel Management,
Manipal University, Manipal, Karnataka
Getting there: Bus or train from Bangalore or Mangalore
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