OpenRoad Driver Volume 13 Issue 1 - Page 32

32 » OpenRoad Driver CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT Namaste MY TIME WITH VIKRAM VIJ Interview by Christian Chia Photos by Todd Duncan Watch a video of the interview at: » The passion of Vikram Vij is on full display. Today his hands do double duty: covered in spices to create a series of beautiful Indian curries and, in between, gesturing like a conductor as he shares his feelings on being called Dr. Vij, answers the critics who question the purity of his food, and explains how he became homeless - by choice - on the streets of India. The legendary restaurateur continues to build a food empire that is poised to enter the US market. Passionate, candid and one-of-a-kind, Vikram Vij opens up during his recent chat with OpenRoad’s president, Christian Chia, to provide a fascinating look into his world. To start off, I can’t call you Vikram any more. I have to call you Dr. Vij. You can call me Vikram. Getting a doctorate was a great compliment. Did you know in 2016 I am getting a second doctorate from UBC? I am not even a graduate and I am getting two PhDs, in two years, from SFU and UBC. Is there a theoretical field of study? Which schools within UBC and SFU have bestowed the doctorates? It’s called degrees of law, which means people who have brought something to society. In my case it was bringing Indian food to the forefront and making it accessible and popular through the styles of cooking I’ve done at Vij’s, Rangoli, My Shanti and all the other endeavours I have. Just talking about that, there are some purists who say Vij’s is Indianlike food, but it’s not pure Indian. Then there are your fans who say Vij’s is the best Indian food ever. So how would you address the purist argument? Where do you lie on the spectrum? As an immigrant to this country from India, via Austria, I feel that what I did was bring the best of what I have, which is India, take my best culinary experiences from Austria, and add where I live, which is in Canada. So I’m combining those. I’m an alloy of India, Austria and Canada. That’s what hardens me and makes me who I am. To the purist I say I am as pure as I get. I have just imparted some of the strengths I have to this mixture, to this metal, this alloy. That’s what cuisines are meant to be. You cannot have the purist form of food, because the water is different, the eggplant is different, the cauliflower is different, the chicken is different. How are you going to expect the food to taste how it tastes in India, to taste like that in Canada? I tell the purist to come talk to me. I am wearing a nose ring and I’m wearing Indian jewelry. I’m an Indian, and I’ll always be an Indian. I am a pure Indian. But I have to change myself slightly based on where I live. So why not be the most adaptable person? And cuisines are like rivers. They need to flow. If you keep doing the same thing, then you’ll never have this beautiful blending of cultures in cuisines. So, screw the purist. So as you were being bestowed your honorary doctorate, next to you was your spouse, Meeru. Now, what’s it like working with your spouse, especially with her having such a strong forceful power in your business? And who’s really the boss?