As with men and women, behind every great religion you’ll find a greater kitchen. At least that’s Vikas Khanna’s theory. In his new film series, Holy Kitchens, the 38-year-old chef delves into the relationship between food and faith. For the first installment, Holy Kitchens: The True Business, Khanna visits the Langar (or, community kitchen) of Harimandir Sahib—also known as the Golden Temple—the holiest site in Sikhism, in Amritsar, India. It’s an appropriate debut subject for Khanna, who was born in Amritsar. Though he now lives in Manhattan, he maintains very close ties to his homeland.
Foodie television watchers may recognize Khanna. That’s him on the Dillon’s episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. (Dillon’s later became Purnima, a wonderful but short-lived modern Indian restaurant helmed by Khanna in Manhattan’s Theater District.) Vikas must’ve charmed the cantankerous Scotsman—because that’s also him serving as a judge on Hell’s Kitchen. Khanna has even appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay—judging, yes, chicken tikka masala.
Given a few more television appearances, and Khanna may threaten Padma Lakshmi’s status as the world’s most famous Indian foodie. But whereas Lakshmi appeared on Top Chef, Khanna is an actual chef.
Khanna doesn't seem to have fame on his mind. Primarily, he’s a (prolific) cookbook author, avid traveler, and ambitious restaurateur. In fact, he’ll soon leave his chef post at the Rubin Museum of Art’s café to open his new venture, Junoon, on W. 24th St. in Manhattan. At a time when celebrity chefs mysteriously opt to host game shows (what's up, Guy Fieri?), Khanna remains focused on exploring the world’s great culinary traditions.
Holy Kitchens: The True Business premieres Friday, October 22 as part of the Sikh Art and Film Foundation’s Seventh Annual Film Festival. (Watch the trailer here.) It will be shown with Harvest of Grief, which examines a farmer’s suicide in Sangrur, a city in southeastern Punjab, and The Rebel Queen, about Maharani Jindan, who challenged the British Empire in the 19th century. Tickets are available through the Sikh Arts website.
Jeff Koyen is the Deputy Online Editor of Travel + Leisure.