When we think of chefs who have us eating out of their hands (and in this case, we mean metaphorically not just literally), Kelvin Cheung immediately comes to mind. Since he moved to India in 2012, the Canadian-born India-based chef has done his bit to redefine the country’s culinary landscape.
It all started with fine dining restaurant Ellipsis in South Mumbai. After that, he wore the F&B director and corporate chef hat at Aallia Hospitality and Bastian Hospitality, where he launched One Street, Bastian, and Whole and then Some. Bastian, in particular, instantly became the city’s trendiest Sunday brunch haunt for Bollywood celebrities like Ananya Panday, Tiger Shroff, and Janhvi Kapoor, among others (you can blame Cheung’s gluten-free pancakes for that). In 2019, after over three years with the company, the chef took some time off to eat his way through restaurants and family homes in Toronto, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Hong Kong.
Earlier this year, Cheung announced his much-awaited second stint — Asian-forward restaurant Kiko-Bā and cocktail bar Dadel in association with White Panda Hospitality — this time in New Delhi. But the pandemic, naturally, has resulted in a pause. Even so, his kitchen experiments haven’t simmered down. In fact, the celebrity chef has been cooking up a storm at his home in the Capital; everything from Korean fried chicken and ramen to three-ingredient chocolate chip cookies and mug versions of his famous KelCake. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t also tuning in for his adorable sous chef, his one-year-old son Bodhi Rye Cheung who already has his own Instagram fan base.
Lifestyle Asia India caught up with Chef Kelvin Cheung to understand how the lockdown has changed his idea of ‘the good life’
What would you call ‘the good life’ as of today?
My son, my wife Andrea Michele Brown, a good meal (ginger fried rice, flat rice noodle pad see ew, kimchi stew) a cuddle puddle, and lots of laughter.
How has this idea changed for you over the past three months?
I love this question. It’s something we talk about constantly in our home. Slowing down and having so much quality time with my family has been the best thing I could ever imagine. As chefs, we usually work when everyone else is off from work — weekends, holidays, nights. We had glorified ‘grinding’. But stepping away from that has given me the time to reassess my priorities and organise my life.
Anything you have pursued in the past three months to create ‘the good life’ for yourself?
Running! I did not like to run, but I was looking for a challenge and running outdoors was the most accessible, safe, and low-cost option right now. I started at 2 km and have hit 8.5 km now! Cooking with my son and sharing how much joy he gets from it — through our ‘Bodhi Bites’ videos — is another thing I love. He’s in this glorious phase of wanting to help and expresses so much pride when he accomplishes a new task. He loves anything that involves a blender, chopping vegetables and fruits, cracking eggs, mixing, and brewing coffee.
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What does a typical ‘good life’ day look like?
Morning coffee with Andrea while Bodhi eats breakfast. Some arts and crafts followed by preparing lunch with Bodhi. Then, naptime for the baby and workout time for us parents, as well as catching up on emails. Evenings are about snacks for the family. We love makhana and have been experimenting with fun flavours like salted caramel and chocolate (which we did for Pooja Dhingra‘s YouTube channel). Andrea does a cinnamon version she eats with milk, like cereal.
Next, we walk around to feed the cows, play with the neighbourhood puppies, and show off Bodhi’s new scooter skills. Facetime with grandma is followed by dinner, a bath and bedtime for Bodhi. Andrea and I work some more before bed. I swear by 15 minutes of viparita karani (a yoga pose /asana) before I sleep.
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Your ‘good life’ recommendations for the following:
A wellness tip: Working out during Bodhi’s nap times and taking one complete rest day off.
A fitness routine that has worked for you: Lifting in the day and running at night.
Restaurants you love to order in from: We haven’t ordered in much but we’ve outsourced our dosa batter — the sprouted batter by Rishta Foods — and have been on a dosa every day kick. I like my dosa extra crispy but no filling. I usually have it with sunny side eggs and kimchi on the side, sometimes with nutritional yeast too. We also love gunpowder.
A grooming routine that works for you: The eye cream from Rodan + Fields and weekly masks from Moringa What (amazing brand!) with my wife.
Places you are looking to travel once you can: North America, to see our family. This includes my hometown Toronto, Andrea’s hometown Las Vegas, and Oklahoma City where our nephews are. I am also looking forward to Bangkok for street side pad see ew and a pop-up — I can’t reveal much yet but one of my closest friends has a Michelin-star and has opened two new hotspots, where I’ll hopefully do a collaboration after the lockdown. Australia for a shoot and Vietnam for a holiday are also on the list.
Gadgets and apps that make your life easier: Cordless ear buds, Mixer, Spotify
What you’ve started doing about sustainability or the environment?
We have been feeding our local cows vegetable and fruit scraps. We are also soaking banana peels and breaking them down to use as fertilizer for the terrace.
Self-care, self-love – what does this mean to you?
This is such a layered question. Self-love is a forever journey and something I’ve just started to understand. When we love ourselves, we are aware of what we can give without getting exhausted and depleted. We are also able to receive love because we know we deserve it. I like to think that anything I do to better myself as an individual, even it requires time away from my loved ones, is eventually investment in my family. You can only help fill someone else’s cup if you have something in yours to pour.
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Is there someone you look up to when it comes to living a good life?
My mother-in-law has this down pat. She has worked hard to create a life that brings her joy each day. This comes from a combination of self-love, clear boundaries, perspective and discipline. She radiates good vibes and joy. I feel very lucky to call her family.
What’s your main goal this year to create ‘the good life’?
To maintain a balance once I return to working full-time in the restaurants. I don’t know how this will look, as the hospitality industry will be incredibly different.
All images: Courtesy Kelvin Cheung