Private Chefs Make Secrets Of Celebrity Kitchens Public

The demand for private chefs has reached dizzying heights in tinsel town

Behind the world of red-carpet events, velvet ropes, and extravagant soirees, the role of a personal chef extends far beyond preparing meals. Many culinary maestros have become an integral part of Bollywood celebrity homes and wealthy business family households. They craft menus that cater to HNI clients’ unique tastes, dietary requirements, and jet-setting lifestyles. They cook in the comforts of luxurious home kitchens, yachts, private jets, and touring entourages.

Sandhya Kumar (35), a personal chef cum food stylist, who is currently working as a food designer and R&D lead for Future Food Institute in Bologna, Italy says, “Being a celebrity personal chef involves not only culinary expertise but also adaptability, discretion, and the ability to thrive in a high-profile and sometimes unpredictable environment.”

Kitchen Confidential

The constant scrutiny of celebrities by the media places a significant burden on their personal chefs, who have to craft meals that are both tailored to their preferences and nutritionally balanced.

The 2023 blockbuster movie, Animal did wonders at the box office however, a lot of preparation went behind the camera for Ranbir Kapoor’s character ‘Vijay’. Chef Ramaskanda Shastry was assigned the role of bringing this transformation. “When the prep for Animal began, we knew we were preparing for something ‘MASSive’... So, we put in all our effort into planning his diet. No matter where we travelled to shoot, no matter how difficult the shooting conditions were, Ranbir didn’t ever compromise on his diet,” Shastry shares on his instagram.

Chef Dhruv Sharma (25), who has been working with filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Anupama Chopra for 2.5 years says that he is accustomed to their preferences, likes, and dislikes. “In these years, the Chopras have rarely gone out on weekends to savour restaurant foods because they are now fond of my cooking. They have eggs for breakfast post gym workout (at their home) which is always styled with variations, eggs with mushrooms or avocado. Their lunch is usually non-Indian, depending on days and mood i.e Chinese, Persian, Japanese etc,” he says.

Chef Leneesh Vaikom has been dishing out healthy meals for Malayalam superstar Mammootty for over 10 years. The star loves oats puttu for lunch and maintains a strict vigil on his low-carb diet. Mammootty is fond of seafood, especially pearl spot fish. Dhruv asks about dietary preferences only when there are guests. “Two key questions that I ask them — whether they prefer vegetarian or non-vegetarian, and if they have any food allergies or specific preferences,” says Dhruv.

Sandhya, who worked as a personal chef to actor Jacqueline Fernandez says that she followed intermittent fasting and rarely changed her eating schedule. “She followed a very balanced diet. A mix of proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates like brown rice or quinoa twice a week. She avoided sugar completely, and any sort of processed foods,” she shares. A typical meal plan for Jacqueline would be starting the day with bullet coffee (espresso, organic ghee, cinnamon, and coconut MCT oil). Breakfast was a tofu scramble with greens and health shots (apple cider vinegar with turmeric, ginger and paprika). Lunch would be zucchini spaghetti with sunflower and sesame seed pesto. Snacks would include 4-5 dry fruits, seeds, and nuts. Dinner used to be by 7 pm, something warm and light like roasted cauliflower soup.

Different Dietary Quirks

Working closely with celebrities involves a dynamic culinary experience, visiting various places and learning about their homegrown culture, and navigating unpredictable schedules tied to tours and film sets.

Celebrity chefs adapt to specific dietary requests, health goals, and project-based work, adjusting menus to suit both personal preferences and character requirements. On the sets of the movie Chef (2017), Chef Sandhya was a food designer for the movie. Here it had nothing to do with nutrition. The meals even though in most of the scenes were consumed by the actors, the priority was not on taste but more on the appearance, colours and textures of the dish. “I churned out some of Saif Ali Khan’s favourite dishes while we were on the set apart from the food for the camera,” she says. It is a challenge for a chef to be unable to access a proper kitchen on a film set. For four months Chef Dhruv was on the sets of 12th Fail (2023) as a personal chef to Vidhu Vinod. He had to be on his toes constantly to bring innovation and creativity in the meals in the absence of a proper kitchen on the set.

Also, healthy food doesn’t mean ‘not delicious’ or ‘not looking good’. Sandhya reminisces about a film shoot with Jacqueline in Himachal Pradesh during winter. The seasonal local produce was rich in leafy greens. “I visited the local farmers market and hand-picked most of the fresh vegetables and greens. It was something that I enjoyed doing for her. We carry a few ingredients along with us when we travel — spices, seeds, nuts, nut oils, quinoa etc.” The Chopras have their own farm where they produce organic vegetables as per the season. The Chopras love farm-produced mushrooms. Chef Velton Saldanha travelled with Australian cricketer Marcus Stoinis during the 2023 World Cup and took care of his diet (roasted butter chicken, gluten-free banana bread, shepherd’s pie with roasted cauliflower mash). Ace cricketer Hardik Pandya travels with his personal chef, Aarav Nangia. He usually eats 3,000 calories on non-match days and 4,000 calories on match days for energy.

Creativity & Challenge

It is well-known by many that Anupama Chopra has several dietary restrictions. She eats gluten-free, vegan and has soy intolerance. She can only eat limited vegetables. “It’s fun to be creative and experimental with limited food sources. I watch a lot of shows, read books and then give my twists to the same meals. For example, instead of using eggplant in Alla Parmigiana, I use bottle gourd to get the same taste and texture,” says Dhruv. Reading, curiosity and hunger to learn more are the driving forces for any chef. Sandhya believes that experimenting and making mistakes, embracing limitations, and failures are an integral part of creative growth. Dhruv shares, “Born in Srinagar, Vidhu Sir loves Kashmiri food. Once, I made Dum Aloo and he didn’t like it. I had never tasted it so I was unable to get the taste of it right. Recently, we went to Kashmir and I learned how to make it. Now, sir likes it every time I make it.”

All In a Day’s Work

It’s not easy going out grocery shopping and whipping up a fancy meal day-in-and-day-out for the rich and famous. Some celebrities have their food quirks. So how do personal chefs destress in the cacophony of pots and pans in busy kitchens? Some like Chef Dhruv meditate, listen to music, or simply chat with other chefs in the kitchen. While Sandhya and her staff find solace in music during preparation hours and break bread with their loved ones.

“Being a celebrity personal chef involves not only culinary expertise but also adaptability, discretion, and the ability to thrive in a high-profile and sometimes unpredictable environment.” — Sandhya Kumar, personal chef, food stylist and food designer

For Ranbir Kapoor, Chef Ramaskanda Shastry, a chef of ‘Private Chef Club’ founded by Chef Harsh Dixit, takes care of all his dietary needs, including the Animal diet.

Chef Leneesh Vaikom has been dishing out meals to Malayalam superstar Mammootty for 10 years. The star loves seafood and likes oats puttu for lunch.

Chef Velton Saldanha travelled with Australian cricketer Marcus Stoinis during the 2023 World Cup and took care of his diet (roasted butter chicken, gluten-free banana bread, shepherd's pie with roasted cauliflower mash).

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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