“I’d describe myself as a raconteur rather than a comedian,” says Hardeep midway through our interview."If you’re a raconteur you don’t need a laugh at the end of the story." It’s a sentence that sums up the man, who has moved away from comedic entertainment and punditry to concentrate on the world of food and cooking. His skills in the kitchen saw him reach the final on the first series of Celebrity MasterChef back in 2006. He's also explored the Indian Takeaway, and presented New British Kitchen with John Torode.
And so to his latest project, entitled A month of Sundays. The plan is anyone can pitch for the chance to have Hardeep come round and cook a Sunday Lunch for you and your guests, with the occasion being the madder the better. The resulting 31 meals will form part of a book from ‘crowd funded’ publishing house, Unbound. “You buy a chapter, pitch an idea and I come and cook it for you,” he tells me. For a more detailed explanation on how it works, watch this video.
Kohli in the kitchen
So far he’s got some fantastic pitches lined up. From a lady who wants to have a dinner party for her best friends and announce to them all that she has MS, to a Jewish family who wants a special Sunday lunch on Saturday, after synagogue. “I’m thinking of doing a salt beef shepherd’s pie, obviously without the dairy in the mash, then something with rollmop, and maybe orange and fennel,” he tells me.
Another pitcher has set up an allotment to get kids into growing food, and wants Hardeep to come and make things like lassies from the fruit grown, and pakoras from the vegetables. Finally, one couple have asked him to do their wedding. “Are you nervous?” I ask. “I’m crapping myself! It’s causing me sleepless nights, you don’t get a second chance with weddings,” he adds. “I’m really happy doing domestic catering, that’s my strength.” We drift onto the subject of his relationship with food. “I’m about the 'why' of food, the narrative. Every meal ought to be a story and a memory, we’re not asking why enough.”
Hardeep on Indian Food
As well as the Month of Sundays project, Hardeep also has two live shows on tour through 2012. The Indian Takeaway show sees him select a takeaway in each town he plays in, then get an audience member to order their favourite food, and in the time it takes the takeaway to arrive, Hardeep makes something similar on stage. All while telling stories and the occasional joke.
“This country’s relationship with Indian food is phenomenal. I don’t know any country in the world that has taken on the food from a culture on the other side of the world.” We then talk about some of his favourite foodie haunts. Of Tayyabs, the much feted punjabi eatery in East London he says, “where else will people queue for over an hour to eat? It’s an amazing place.”
Hardeep’s final meal
A good question to get the measure of anyone’s relationship with food is to ask them what their last supper would be. “My mum’s curry,” comes the reply. “With chapattis and some mint chutney. I’d also like some karela..” I look non-plussed. “It’s sometimes called bitter gourd and you eat it like a courgette. A love of karela is like a Punjabi DNA test.”
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