“If you invest in people, that investment comes back to you in moments when you least expect it.”
One of most well-known chefs in the world, Ranveer Brar has been a visionary, who found his calling at the young age of 13. Since then, he has learnt the art of cooking on the streets of Lucknow, went on became the youngest executive chef at the age of 25, has been the face of several cooking shows such as The Great Indian Rasoi, Raja Rasoi aur Andaaz Anokhaa and Masterchef India, written cookbooks like Come Into My Kitchen and A Traditional Twist, opened his own restaurants in India and abroad and recently made his acting debut with a web series.
He has had a fantastic journey with many highs and some lows but he has always held people close to his heart. That’s one of the reason why he has always been able to bounce back, come what may. During an exclusive interview ahead of People Matters TechHR India 2022, he shares with us life-lessons, why people are what drive him, how he has been able to engage with the audience in these disruptive times and why the journey matters more than the accomplishments.
There are nuggets of wisdom for budding chefs, entrepreneurs and leaders, who are beginning their career or struggling to stay afloat in these challenging times. But most of all, there is a roadmap for all those who want to find their place in this world. Read on…
As a chef, it is all about self-motivation, while networking with the right people at the right time to have the right opportunities. What are the practices you follow to keep yourself at the top of your game?
I always speak in three’s as it helps me break down things better and I will follow the same template to answer this question as well. In an ever-changing world, it is essential to stay abreast of what’s going on, without getting affected by it. What I mean is one shouldn’t feel like they are chasing something at all times. The second aspect is to understand that technology may be at the forefront of things, but it is people who really matter - conversations, exchanging ideas and thoughts. The third bit that has always helped me is to find that one medium to stay connected. All of us have that one place that we can always go back to where we can lock ourselves up and do what really makes us happy. That medium, for me, has always been food.
You are one of the leading chefs of India. Can you elaborate on that one topmost essential learning that you would like to share with our leaders, readers and budding chefs, who are eager to reignite passion and find a way of life amid so many disruptions?
For me, keeping life simple has always been helpful and that’s what I tell everyone: Keep life simple! I say this because the less options you have, the more clarity you get. One should also realise that somethings in life are not meant at that point so you should be brave enough to say, ‘This is not for me at this point and then not ponder or think on it.’ In my life, that has really helped cut the clutter inside and out and find a place for myself.
For you, when you zoom in, tell us about the challenges you faced, as you climbed the ladder of success, after becoming the youngest executive chef at 25, hosting several cooking shows, opening your own restaurants in India and abroad, writing cookbooks, judging Masterchef India and having the fastest growing YouTube channel during the lockdown?
As you begin your career, the first challenge you face is sort of acceptability that shows up in your life at several junctures in different ways, forms and manner. For me, when I chose to become a chef, getting my parents to accept that this is a viable option was one. The second bit was ensuring that the viability of my profession is accepted across and getting accepted as a 25-year-old leading a team, with an average age of 50. Throughout it all, the biggest realisation has been, ‘When you think you don’t fit and when others believe that too,’ what helps is going with the mindset, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
This mindset has helped me in the darkest hours when I went bankrupt in the US and was sleeping on the streets. I believe it is easier for every individual to bounce back in life, when, one you accept yourself without worrying about other people accepting you and two, by constantly telling yourself, how much further down can we go from here on.
During tough times, holding on to hope is a challenge. You have spoken about battling depression but how did you let go of your past to begin anew?
The answer is People Matter. At the end of it, what really counts is people - friends, family, colleagues, ex-colleagues - who believe in you more than you believe in yourself in those moments when you are at your lowest. And that’s what I always say, ‘If you invest in people, that investment comes back to you in moments when you least expect it and when you feel nothing is going to get better. The same people come back, lift you up and tell you that you are better than you think.
In the past few years, digital has become the way forward, with the pandemic accelerating the process. As a chef, you have managed to engage with the audience on TV, social media and OTT platforms, in a way that most people aspire to. When you zoom out, what is it that drives you to keep doing more, never slowing down even after achieving so much in such a diverse career?
I think one shouldn’t carry the burdens of what they did yesterday. Waking up everyday genuinely believing that you have achieved nothing helps as it keeps the fire burning. You shouldn’t look back and think, ‘Oh, this is what I have done, what a fantastic journey I have had.’ For me, it has been quite a journey but I am not awfully proud of the accomplishments as much as I am proud of the journey I have had, the people I have met, the conversations I have had, etc. That is what I hold dear to me more than the achievements because I think the accomplishments limit you but it is the journey that pushes you to want more, yearn more and do more. I always say, ‘Having a goldfish-like memory when it comes to your successes is the only way to succeed. Achieve success, forget about it and move on to the next thing.
For many of us, we are aware of the success stories of several entrepreneurs. But for budding entrepreneurs beginning their career, what is your advice on the mistakes that one should always look out for?
As an entrepreneur, I think the biggest mistake we make is believing others more than we believe ourselves sometimes. There is a way to how the world works and entrepreneurship by definition is trying to change that way of the world. If one starts believing too much in that way of the world and what people say, it becomes impossible after a point to go back to the original idea, original thought, original drive and original inspiration that drove us to do what we set out to do as the idea gets diluted. I think the need for you to change the world should be bigger than the inertia of the world around you to not change, which is the most important part of entrepreneurship.
Another essential learning is to know that money is just a medium that comes in the form of gratification so don’t go on chasing money but be more focused on chasing gratification, emotion and the belief that money will follow. I am a firm believer that successful businesses are not built on the need to make money, rather they are built on the need to solve, and putting that first and foremost at all times, really helps.
You have spoken about your dream of opening a culinary academy one day. As we rethink what’s possible at People Matters TechHR conference, what do you think you would want to do differently in your academy?
In the world of cooking, there is no pass or fail. With education, we sometimes make it too objective. But food is very subjective as what one might find delicious might not be tasty for others. What I am trying to say is you might be a good cook for yourself but that might not hold true for others. Culinary academies need to find a balance between making you pass or fail vs making you fall in love with food that puts you on a journey to become a better version of yourself in the kitchen. That’s essentially the idea when I cook and I think that has to translate when I am teaching how to cook as well. I am not the person who would pass or fail a cook when it comes to food and I think it shouldn’t be like that.
There is a war for talent in the business landscape today where some leaders are more inclined to finding individuals with raw talent while others are looking for graduates with fancy college degrees. What are your thoughts on it?
I think talent is not an empowering word, the word is drive, passion and the ability to excel. With talent, you sometimes feel helpless when you believe you aren’t born with it, and you accept it is not your cup of tea, which makes you less empowered. But passion, drive and the need to excel are fundamental to becoming better. However, some sort of structured training and education is equally important. A structure can help us create a strong foundation so we can go bigger from thereon. Even with the best drive, you need to structure it with good education to take it forward.
As you have grown in your career, you have been pioneering a lot of people-centric initiatives that have helped farmers, street vendors and prisoners. What is your vision behind it?
I think there are causes that we feel for and I believe it is important that those causes close to your heart become larger conversations. If you have the power to magnify an emotion, then you might as well do it. And I think that is what I set out to do when I bring out causes and stories that touch and inspire others.
Want to listen more on how Ranveer Brar is redesigning the digital experience for impact? Join us at People Matters TechHR India 2022 on August 4 and 5 at The Leela Ambience, Gurgaon, where the best leaders and thinkers get together to tackle the most pertinent work dilemmas and help you become the answer, Today and Tomorrow.