'I have realised that acting makes me richer': Ranveer Brar

The celebrity chef is now awaiting release of his latest, 'The Buckhingham Murders'

66-Ranveer-Brar-at-his-kitchen-studio What's cooking?: Ranveer Brar at his kitchen studio | Amey Mansabdar

Over a plate of Lucknowi nihari (slow cooked meat in a blend of spices), yakhni pulao and quiwami sewai for dessert, Rajveer, a dishy chef at a Goan restaurant, woos singer Manzu. As the aroma of the simmering meat fills the room, love blossoms between the two men, ultimately culminating in a happily-ever-after. The story of Rajveer and Manzu is one of the six episodes of Modern Love Mumbai (2022), directed by Hansal Mehta.

It is difficult to tell where Ranveer Brar the chef ends and Ranveer Brar the actor begins, because in real life, too, Brar cooks as if he is in a rom-com.

It is easy for Chef Ranveer Brar, who plays Rajveer, to nail the role; he has a lifetime of practice in using food as a medium to convey love, lust and longing. The kitchen, after all, is his home turf. This was Brar’s baptism into the world of acting, but in many ways it is difficult to tell where Brar the chef ends and Brar the actor begins, because in real life, too, Brar cooks as if he is in a rom-com.

When Brar is in his element―whether it is as the judge of MasterChef India or as the host of his YouTube channel (which has over seven million subscribers)―he is at his most emotive. From smiles to smirks, sarcasm to satire, his expressions are on overdrive. When Mehta was asked why he chose Brar as his protagonist, the director said he could see an actor in him. He referred to the chef's YouTube series “where you can see there is a certain romance that is going on between him and his food”.

Brar, as Manzu's lover, was charmingly handsome with his lean, six-foot frame and a high-voltage smile. He sailed through the role without any of the jitters of a first-time actor. And now he has been bitten by the acting bug, he is looking forward to the release of The Buckhingham Murders, with Kareena Kapoor Khan, and the Amazon Prime reality show, Ma Ka Sum, in which a teenage math genius is on a quest to create an algorithm to find the “perfect match” for his vivacious single mother.

Not that Modern Love Mumbai was the first time Brar was offered a role. He has said that he has been offered the same role several times―that of a villain in south Indian films. Now, he does not want to dabble, but dive into the world of cinema, even as he is acutely aware that the journey from a “chef-who-turned-actor” and “the-actor-who-was-once-a-chef” is going to be a long and trying one.

67-a-still-from-Modern-Love-Mumbai A still from Modern Love Mumbai

A Punjabi kid hailing from Lucknow, Brar cooked his way up from a hotel management graduate to the youngest executive chef at an Indian five-star at 25. Soon, he became one of the most popular travel and food show hosts, and handled banquets at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the prime minister's residence. He launched his restaurants in the US, judged MasterChef India, and got rated as the second-highest earning celebrity chef on the Forbes India 2019 list. There have been dead-ends and disappointments, including his Brooklyn restaurant that failed to perform. But Brar remains upbeat; life, after all, cannot always be a cakewalk. His recently opened restaurant in Dubai, Kashkan, became popular when his video of the dal served there went viral. The '24-carat gold-infused tadka dal' is touted to be the most expensive dal in the world, reportedly priced at Rs1,300 a plate.

Now, it is time to shift courses: from chef to businessman and actor, treading the path of others before him that he looks up to, like Sanjeev Kapoor and Vikas Khanna. "I have realised that acting makes me richer,” says Brar. “Doing this has given me the confidence that if a character that I play adds something to my life, then I should be trying to do more with this medium.”

Brar, in person, takes you by surprise. If anyone has seen him cook on live TV or on his channel, they will be charmed by his wit, humour and that signature smile. In person, however, he is more subdued and no-nonsense, a stickler for perfection. We are in his studio where he shoots his YouTube videos. The space is chock-a-block with his kitchenware―cast-iron pots, spatulas, ceramic crockery and chopping boards. Brar appears to be a pro, as he suggests camera angles, lighting and how to frame the photos. As the camera comes on, he is in his element, and I instantly recall his umpteen shows that I have watched. I see the humourist who juggles sarcasm with self-deprecation, and takes as many potshots at himself as at anyone else. Maybe it is this versatility that feeds the actor inside him.

Not that he is giving up his love for yakhni pulao. “I'm still a chef at heart,” he says. “Cooking has gotten me this far and I will never forget my roots.” Apart from pan-Indian, he has dabbled in Afghani, African, Hawaiian, Moroccan, Oriental, Swiss, Swedish, Turkish and Vietnamese. But does he cook at home? “Nope. My son Ishaan doesn't like my cooking,” he says. “He likes my wife's." Does he want his son to follow in his footsteps as a modern celebrity chef, with that rare amalgam of culinary, marketing, and business skills, and now acting talent? "No," he says with a smile. "Let him find his own journey.” Brar, on his part, might have found himself in the kitchen, but he wishes to grow on set.