Chef Vikas Khanna presents his 16-kg culinary book ‘Utsav’ to Bill Clinton

New York :Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna presented his magnum opus 16-kg culinary book ‘Utsav’ to former US President Bill Clinton , cherishing the opportunity to showcase to the American leader the rich and diverse cuisine of Indian festivals and rituals.

Khanna had presented Utsav to the Dalai Lama as well as to Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the Indian leader had visited the US last month.

The internationally acclaimed chef will be presenting copies of Utsav to 12 global leaders, who he said have influenced him and the world. On his list are President Barack Obama and Pope Francis among other leaders.

“It is a great opportunity to be able to represent India” and show its cultural diversity and rich cuisine through the book, Khanna told PTI.

Recalling an emotional moment he shared with Clinton, Khanna said he told the US leader that he wants people to hold the book “the way they would hold their daughter for the first time- with two hands.”

Clinton replied that “India is not just the daughter, it is also the mother,” Khanna recalled saying it was an emotional moment.

Along with the book, which he presented to Clinton during a Clinton Foundation event here earlier this week, Khanna also gifted him a box of 26 sweets inspired by 26 festivals in India.

With Indians across the world celebrating the festive season of Navratri and Durga Puja, Khanna said his box of sweets to Clinton epitomised the festivals in a unique, culturally rich and contemporary avatar.

The box contained delicacies such as Saffron rose and Star Anise Sandesh filled with Persimmon Payesh served during Durga Pooja and Seviyan-Pistachio Rolls savoured during Eid.

Khanna also plans to auction a copy of Utsav in India, with the funds raised going to the Smile Foundation that works for children who are under-fed and malnourished.

He said as India celebrates the festive season and gears to usher in the festival of lights Diwali, every child should be able to participate in the celebrations.

“Festivals are a big celebration for everyone but sometimes everyone is not included. Festivals should not be restricted to a few privileged people but everyone should be able to celebrate them,” Khanna said.

Khanna, who has described ‘Utsav’ as his “breath”, spent more than 12 years compiling the book as he tried to research and capture festivals celebrated across the length and breadth of the country.

Khanna travelled extensively across the country capturing the essence of festivals from the Jagannath Yatra, Krishna Janamasthami to Rosh Hashanah, Sindhis Cheti Chand and Losar in Ladakh, many through pictures taken by him.

The book also seeks to showcase the scale and grandeur around major festivals like Diwali, Eid and Durga Puja and detail the history behind ceremonies and sacred ingredients that have been used in the Indian heritage.

Khanna has dedicated the book to transgenders, saying that while they are a part of major festivals and ceremonies, few people know how they celebrate their life and tragedy at their own festival in Koovagam near Chennai where the annual festival of transgender and transvestite individuals is held.