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Whisking Up Success: A Recipe for Chef Extraordinaire with Chef Davinder Kumar

Whisking Up Success: A Recipe for Chef Extraordinaire with Chef Davinder Kumar

Chef Davinder Kumar’s experience goes way beyond words. He is not only well known for his great culinary passion but also for being an adventurous food connoisseur who has traveled extensively and regularly seeks the opportunity to explore different kinds of cuisines while developing his gourmet knowledge. His dedication to food guidance and culinary refinements for over four decades stems from his passion for creativity in the culinary space. His ability to create and grasp new concepts quickly, combined with an extremely strong focus and service orientation, gives him a fine eye for details.

A graduate of Delhi University, Chef Davinder Kumar started his career in 1972 with the Oberoi Group of Hotels. After completing a three-year diploma course in Kitchen Management, he was sponsored by the Oberoi Group to go to the Lychee Technique de Hotelier in Paris, where he got the opportunity to work with selected chefs who specialized in French Cuisine.  He has traveled extensively across the globe in a bid to master the intricacies of different cuisines. Chef Davinder Kumar is a living testament to the saying, ‘Cherish your passion, follow your heart, do what you love to do, and the money will follow.’ He strongly believes that sharing knowledge & skills of Indian cuisine and improving the image of Indian chefs worldwide is very essential.

Q: How did you get into this particular field, and what were your struggles at a time when there were no role models, influencers, or media outreach?

A: It was after graduating from Delhi University that I began exploring various professional courses. It was when I got an opportunity to work for Oberoi Intercontinental that I soon realized that I had the right attitude and aptitude for the culinary sector. The sector was going through a lot of transformation back then, and it was not easy to learn from the masters from various parts of the world who held their culinary secrets close to their hearts. We had to depend on books and publications to learn the right techniques, which was a big struggle. Word-of-mouth endorsement was the only form of advocacy for the ones working behind the screens. My very first role model is the legendary hotelier, Mr. V. K. Oberoi, who pushed me on the right path to excellence. 

Learning was slow, and with a lack of mentoring, it was more like jumping into the river and eventually learning to swim—keep kicking and you learn to float.

Q: Everyone has their highs and lows. What was/is your highest and lowest moment in life?

A: Getting the opportunity to work in France, participating in the international cooking festival in Tokyo, NAM, and the recent G20 Summit, which was held last year, have been super highs. It’s heady when you get to meet people from around the globe and get to know about diverse cultures and ways of life. I joined the profession with lots of hope and positivity. The picture of the profession that I had held in my heart and what I had imagined it to be, were very different in reality. All the cleaning and running errands that one has to do when they begin their career in the culinary sector, were the lowest moments of my life. 

Q: You have been on this pedestal for a while, mentoring and inspiring many people. Do you think people understand what it means to be a chef, or are they just aware of the media-influenced bit?

A: The perception and reality are very different. The aspirants still think of a Chef, as some celebrity that they watch in the media. Many don’t realize that it involves backbreaking work that requires super-rigorous, long hours. It’s challenging and demands more skills than just cooking. One has to be patient, as climbing the ladders cannot be all that easy. This also calls for the right attitude towards work. 

Whisking Up Success: A Recipe for Chef Extraordinaire with Chef Davinder Kumar

Q: Can you share a dish or recipe that holds special significance to you?

A: A dish that I created many years ago, ‘Stuffed Chicken Supreme, Hand crushed Potatoes, Morel Cream and Chargrilled Asparagus’, has been my signature dish to date. 

Q: How do you balance creativity and practicality while designing a menu?

A: It all begins with research, and it’s not a one-time job. Constant research is what comes in handy, which involves knowing your diners (just like KYC), authenticity is very important. It also involves making the best use of the infrastructure available and, most importantly, a good understanding of the flavor profile when creating something new.

Q: What are some essential skills or qualities every aspiring chef should possess?

A: The most important quality that a chef should possess is open-mindedness. Then come resilience and agility. They need to have an eagle's eye and attention to detail. Standardization is very important, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing creativity and innovation aspects. A sharp vision for the future that involves mindfulness, sustainable practices, and positivity—I'd call these non-negotiable. Combine all that with hard work and mastering basic kitchen skills.

Whisking Up Success: A Recipe for Chef Extraordinaire with Chef Davinder Kumar

Q: Can you share some of your favorite childhood food memories that influenced your cooking style?

A: Practices like cooking in earthen pots, cast iron utensils, slow cooking in the age of fast food, thoughtful cooking, and reducing waste, have influenced my cooking style. You can see these in my book ‘Second Meals’, which is about the art of cooking through food scraps. 

Q: What is your culinary philosophy, and how does it reflect in your dishes?

A: It is very simple, actually. Do it from the heart and be optimistic. Add freshness, nutrition, and happiness to everything you cook. 

Q: What advice would you give to home cooks looking to elevate their culinary skills?

Cooking at home and cooking commercially are two very different aspects, though they have cooking at their core. I would tell the home cooks to continue upgrading themselves, get trained professionally for more skills besides cooking, and keep learning and enhancing their knowledge. Standardization is very essential. People must keep coming back for that  'secret sauce’ and it has to taste the same each time.


During his long-drawn career, he has excelled in kitchen planning, staff recruitment, and the execution of menus and unique recipes. He has trained a number of chefs and professionals who are holding top positions in India and abroad. Chef Davinder Kumar’s self-esteem, strong commitment, and dedication to his work not only show his interest in his work but also depict the passion he possesses for it. He believes that not everybody gets a chance to pursue their hobby as their career & feels fortunate enough to do so.

Chef Davinder Kumar is a portal dedicated to the ultimate presence of culinary perfectionism within the global environment, keeping the presence of Indianness in his cuisine. Over the years, he has been bestowed with several awards for his excellence in culinary art & contribution to the industry. He has also been conferred the National Tourism Award for Best Chef of India by the Ministry of Tourism.


Q: How do you believe food connects people across different cultures and communities?

A: I have been in the hospitality industry for a long time, which has given me loads of opportunities to mingle with people from diverse communities. As it is said, ‘food unites while politics divides’. Food does bring people closer and fosters burying their differences.

Whisking Up Success: A Recipe for Chef Extraordinaire with Chef Davinder Kumar

Q: How does the Indian Culinary Forum work?

A: ICF works on set objectives like educating fellow chefs to enhance and improve their skills, creating a platform where they upgrade their knowledge, encouraging young minds to join the profession, and providing them with ample networking opportunities.

Q: Could you please tell us about your achievements through the Forum’s outreach?

A: In the past two decades of my being the President of ICF, we have continued the legacy of Annual Awards, Knowledge Summits, culinary competitions, and Incredible Chef magazine. ICF has also been fostering chefs’ training and up-skilling, promoting Indian cuisine globally, and ensuring the profession is recognized, and gets its due respect.

About Chef Davinder Kumar

An aficionado in the fine art of cooking to the gourmet’s delight, Davinder Kumar has been in this profession for more than four decades. He was the sole Indian representative at the 1983 International Cooking Festival held in Tokyo, Japan, and was awarded a medal for his presentation of Indian cuisine. In 1985, he joined Hotel Le Meridien, New Delhi, as Executive Chef and is currently working as the Hotel’s Vice President (F&B Production) and Executive Chef.

When India's most noted culinary celebrity takes a leaf out of the kitchen that has nourished and inspired him since childhood and turns it into a book, you have the perfect recipe for 'Cooking with Love'. After receiving great response and appreciation for his books “Kebabs, chutneys & Breads” and "Just Kebabs: Celebration of 365 Kebabas & one for a Leap Year", Chef Davinder Kumar has written two more sets of books, “Four Season Salads & Soups”. He has been hosting the famous cookery show “Kebab Corner” on ETC Channel Punjabi.

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