Travel & Leisure India & South Asia

Feeding A Country

Few who read the glowing success stories of immigrants in America ever get a peek at the reality of an outsider’s life in New York. The culinary world of the Big Apple has a dark underbelly, and yet, within all its darkness, a unique talent bloomed in the aughts. Chef Vikas Khanna says that he is still haunted by his experiences of racism in the country—a renowned Caucasian chef once warned him that he could cut off Khanna’s fingers and no one would believe his story. While such incidents did disturb him, they also drove him forward. “I’m not angry. I’m just a scarred person who experienced all these things firsthand,” says Khanna of his struggling days.

This desire to succeed was imbued in him as good as me. You can never be my equal. You will always be less than me because you’re a brown s**t,’” Khanna reveals. The racist slur did not deter or intimidate him; it only spurred him on to do bigger and better things. “This is what made me think that anything I did would be more—it would reach more people, would be better integrated into life, and would have more integrity than this one comment. That is why the projects [I am involved in] are so big.” Khanna still remembers his reply to the man, “I don’t want to be equal to you. I want to be better than you.” It is this sentiment that drives the chef till date.

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