It is with immense gratitude that I attended the gala for President Obama at Manhattan’s fabulous Rubin Museum of Art on Monday, May 14. If you’re unfamiliar with this new museum, it’s a nonprofit cultural and educational institution dedicated to the art of the Himalayas. I was there to support the President and help my dear friend, world-renowned Michelin Star Chef Vikas Khanna.
Vikas and executive chef of the Rubin Museum’s Café Serai, Ali Loukzada, were responsible for the food at this elegant fundraising event. The delicious fare comprised Himalayan inspired dishes such as Kashmiri pickled beet salad, truffle edamame momos (Tibetan-style dumplings), and ema dashi, which is the national dish of Bhutan.
Vikas is no stranger to the Himalayas. Over the past seven years, he’s traveled extensively through the majestic mountain range and is finally gearing up to release a cookbook, Return to the Rivers, highlighting this journey in 2013. This is no ordinary book of recipes. Not only does it feature gorgeous photographs by Vikas, but also a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (this is the only cookbook the Tibetan spiritual leader has ever written a foreword for). Speaking of books, Vikas has six more upcoming releases in the works. His most recent book, Flavors First, was published by Lake Isle Press in September 2011. I highly recommend it!
In addition to the May 14 event, Vikas has cooked for The Hindu American Seva Conference at the White House on July 29, 2011, authored cookbooks, is the executive chef of New York’s prestigious Junoon restaurant, and is the host of "Master Chef India." Shortly before the show’s October 2011 premiere, I visited my friend and his mother on the Mumbai set. (You might have caught the related blog.) Since then, Vikas’s celebrity has exploded on the subcontinent. As my Indian friends tell me, “He’s become a household name.” He also has a series of documentaries entitled “Holy Kitchens," which explores the relationship between spirituality and food. One hundred percent of the proceeds from these films go to the World Hunger Mission.
With all this going on and more, Vikas remains one of the most humble, calm, and hard working beings I have ever met. Likewise, he ceaselessly puts his heart and soul into his work. Essentially, cooking is his sadhana, or spiritual/yogic practice. As he told me shortly after we met on "The Martha Show" in March 2011, “The kitchen is my temple.”
Another reason why cooking for President Obama has been a tremendous honor for Vikas is that he’s experienced the American dream firsthand. After emigrating to New York about 12 years ago, he has established himself with belief, ceaseless work, determination, and the positive recognition of the opportunities uniquely at hand in this country. With this in mind, something I honored most about President Obama’s speech was the focus on values and creating greater unity in this amazingly diverse country. I also greatly commend the president for supporting gay marriage and continuously standing behind women and helping to preserve hard-won rights. Likewise, I’m thrilled that I got to shake Obama’s hand and share a few words! His charisma is outstanding.
Thank you, Vikas Khanna, for not only inspiring me, but for reminding us that work can be love made visible.
Yoga brings stability and calm into every discipline of Sophie Herbert's life. She is an alignment focused yoga teacher (and perpetual student), life coach, and a Whole Living contributing editor. She graduated from the Cooper Union School of Art, where she nurtured her passion for documentary photography. It was during this time that she began her disciplined and diverse study of yoga in New York, Paris, and India.
Sophie has lived, studied, and volunteered extensively in India. She feels grateful to still visit and work regularly with the Deenabandhu Children's Home in Chamarajanagar, Karnataka. In November of 2010, she became an ambassador for Yoga Gives Back www.yogagivesback.org, a grass-roots nonprofit that helps destitute women and girls in India build more sustainable lives. Sophie has also shared her knowledge of yoga at the Prana Yoga Center in Astana, Kazakhstan. Currently, she teaches at the Park Slope Yoga Center www.parkslopeyoga.com and Prema Yoga www.premayogabrooklyn.com in Brooklyn, Sangha House www.sanghahousenyc.com in Manhattan, and privately. She is in the midst of her life coach certification and taking on clients at a reduced rate. Sophie is also an avid cook.