Monday, January 8, 2018

Book Review: Buried Seeds by Karan Bellani

Title: Buried Seeds-A Chef's Journey
Author: Karan Bellani
Format: Hardcover (188 pages)
Publisher: Wisdom Tree (28 November 2017)
Language: English


Blurb: A young boy in Amritsar learns to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen while doing sewa at the legendary kitchens of the Golden Temple. He works as a delivery boy for his father’s video cassette library, makes blankets, cooks at weddings and opens a catering business in the back of his house at the age of seventeen.


The boy, now a young chef, makes a journey of a lifetime to New York, only to face stiffer challenges―that of being homeless and facing discrimination almost every single day.

Buried he may have been, under failure and hopelessness, but nothing could keep him down, for he had the power of passion and perseverance, and the strength of skill and self-belief.

He rose and how!

This inspirational and page-turning account of the transformational journey of India’s most celebrated chef, Vikas Khanna, is a priceless gift―a gift of hope and fulfilling one’s dreams―for you and for everyone you love.





Review: The bookmark that is lying beside the book in the above image bears a quote by me: "the moment you replace fear with faith in God, the rays of hope pierce through the darkest walls." The reason I put this bookmark there is that Chef Vikas Khanna's life journey gave meaning to these words. He had faith in his passion, in the power of food, in the power of his Biji's blessings, and he had faith that he could achieve his dream of taking Indian food to every corner of the world... and he did! He faced all his fears and overcame them.
Chef Vikas was born with clubfeet (as per Wikipedia, Clubfoot is a birth defect where one or both feet are rotated inwards or downwards). Doctors said that he would not be able to run, but his mother was firm that he wasn't born to run, he was born to fly.
He walked,
he ran,
he flew.
He had the wings
which his family
nurtured and grew. 

To my fellow fans of Chef Vikas, you must be thinking you know everything about him as you have seen, heard and read countless interviews of him, but NO! There's so much in the book Buried Seeds that I had never heard before. Every time I flipped a page, I learned something new about him and his life. Be they his stories of fun times with his friends at WGSHA, or his near death experience while he worked in a small deli during his initial days in the US, or his days of street plays in childhood with his sister, or how this shy lad from Amritsar became New York's Hottest Chef. The book kept me hooked (which is a difficult task as I easily lose focus). 
The chapters in the book are as beautifully titled as the book itself. My favourite chapter title is 'Broken Pearls'. The first chapter of the book is titled, 'Failure'. Yes, the story of tremendous success begins with failure. Quoting Chef Vikas here: "I've failed many times. Life has hit me in the gut over and over. And that is why I succeed. These failures have acted like milestones."
His words have been quoted throughout the book and that's what makes it more inspiring. It is as if Chef, himself and the author are telling the story together. From his broken pearls (milk teeth) to the person he is today with numerous feathers in his cap, the journey of his life which is no less than a roller-coaster ride has been beautifully described by Karan Bellani. The language is simple and easily understood, you won't have to keep running for the dictionary! Still, there's wonderful word-play by the author at some points. There are also few lines from the Chef's favourite poems which makes Buried Seeds even more interesting. 
Buried seeds ends with a poem by Chef Vikas Khanna, titled 'A Humble Seed' and there could never be a better and more poetic end to the book. 
If you feel stuck in life and need the inspiration to keep going, read this gem. And those who are already inspired by Chef Vikas (like me), you will have better insights into his life through Buried Seeds. 

He is blessed with a family who became his weapon to conquer all odds and rise above them.

Concluding the post with his favourite proverb: "They came to bury us, but they forgot we were seeds."

P.S. Do you know what does Chef Vikas do when he is hit by a creative block? Or do you know what memories does he keep intact on his noticeboard in his office in New York? No? The answer is in the book.

About the author: Karan Ballani is a biographer and culinary historian with expertise in the gastronomic and cultural evolution of the Indian civilisation. He has worked with Ernst and Young, Penguin Random House, and Bloomsbury. He lives in Mumbai and loves a game of chess over cold coffee.

You may buy your copy from Amazon: Buried Seeds

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