Vikram Vij is a Indo-Canadian chef, cookbook author, and television personality. He is co-owner, with his wife Meeru Dhalwala, of the Indian cuisine restaurants Vij's and Rangoli in Vancouver, British Columbia. Since 2014, Vij has been one of two new "dragon" investors on the Canadian reality show Dragon's Den for its ninth season.
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I am an Indian chef with three restaurants on the West Coast of Canada, I’ve been a judge on Top Chef, Chopped Canada and Recipe To Riches, and I’m now one of the newest Dragons on CBC’s Dragons’ Den airing next Wednesday! Talk to me about food, wine, international cuisine, my experiences as a Dragon, or anything else.
Proof here: http://imgur.com/Z74wn7l
And here: http://imgur.com/wlMAVVg
Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vijs/174255645924082
Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Vijs_Restaurant
Here’s my official profile on the Dragons’ Den website: http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/dragons/vikram-vij
We're here a bit early, but we'll be starting in around 30 minutes.
Edit: We're starting now!
Edit 2: A huge thank you to everyone who asked us questions! I need to head out to Vij's right now and I hope to see all of you there!
Shoutout to /r/Indianfood!
Ask me anything!
What do you feel about the word curry? A lot of desis feel like it's a made-up catch-all concept made by the Brits for soupy South Asian food.
How do you think the South Asian sub-cuisines - Goan, Bengali, Indo-Chinese etc. - can gain better traction in North America?
For your first question...
Firstly, curry means sauce. Traditionally, the word "curry" came from when India was occupied. So when people say "curry is a genetic term", it is to denote food from the asian part of the world. Yes it is a made-up word, but now curry means a blend of great spices.
Secondly, we must live with it and it is our jobs as desis to bring awareness to the cuisine and the culture of India by not bastardizing it and serving it cheaper but serving it with unique flavours and spices.
For your second...
Only if we Indians start to differentiate and travel to different parts of India and respect the cuisines of Goa, Bengal, Kerala, then the non-indians will take our cuisine seriously. The menu at our restaurant My Shanti is based on those sub-cuisines which are very diverse and unique.
What's your go-to dish for a relaxing night at home?
A bowl of Dhaal curry, two chapattl, and a bottle of wine, and some sappy indian meals. Missing India!
Can I have a loan of 5000?
Haha, come and audition for Dragons' Den next season!
What do you hope to invest in?
I invest in an entrepreneur that has the passion, love, and desire to work hard and never gives up!
I do not invest in commodities, I invest in people.
Of course, I've pitched companies before, working on a small online business now, and I'm even a good desi cook so I can bribe you.
Want my family's secret recipe for mustard-coconut prawn curry? GIVE ME THE MONEY FIRST.
Is your recipe worth $5000? How about a good barter exchange: one meal at My Shanti for your mustard-coconut prawn curry recipe?
I know I'm haggling with you :)
What was the most cringe-worthy pitch that you experienced in the Den? Are there any pitches that are so bad that they don't make it to air?
260 pitches approximately are filmed during the season, out of which only 180 might make it to air. Since I've signed a non-disclosure agreement I'm afraid I can't give you any details, but this season you will see such dramatically animated pitchers who just wanted to be there for the sake of it and you'll find real entrepreneurs giving their heart and soul to their pitch.
Each Dragon seems to bring a different personality and style of dealing with the entrepreneurs, how do you see yourself as a Dragon?
I'm a compassionate, been-there and nurturing Dragon! I really wasn't mean!
I'm moving to Vancouver in three weeks. Besides yours, what restaurants should I check out first?
Hawksworth for a romantic dinner, Thomas Haas for a sweet tooth, Bao Bei for modern Chinese and Campagnolo for a great pizza night. But you must come to Vij's for a great curry!
Do you have what it takes for us to put our hard-earned money into your passion?
Good afternoon Chef and thank you for doing this =). I apologize for not having had the chance to make a reso at Vij's before but am pleased to have enjoyed a meal at railway express.
Here's my question, having successfully opened your restaurants here in Vancouver, what would you say are the most important aspects of restaurants/cuisines that will determine whether they can succeed in Vancouvers culinary space? It's been no secret that many other well known restaurateurs have held reservations concerning Vancouver fearing it to be too small of a market. What's your take on what restaurants need to successfully break into Vancouver's culinary space?
Thank you for having read and answered my questions =) Any chance one of your kitchens need a hand with the dishes, prep, or line cooking? I'd be honored to learn and grow at the humblest positions of your talented teams. Thank you so much again for your precious time Chef, enjoy the last of the warm weather!!
Thank you for visiting! I'm afraid you can't make reservations at Vij's, but please do come along and relax, enjoy a snack and glass of wine with us before you sit down.
The most important part of the restaurant is to see either a chef or the owner in charge of the kitchen and the service. Ambience and pleasant service have been the trademarks for Vancouver's top restaurants. Personalized service and making people feel welcomed in the owner's restaurant is, I feel, the most important part of gaining loyalty in having people come back and back to the restaurant.
Also, acknowledging the people waiting and respecting them is part of welcoming them to your home.
Please drop off or mail your resume to My Shanti :o)
Good afternoon Mr Vij. I just want to start by saying what a huge fan of yours I am. Vij's was one of the first restaurants my family tried when we moved to the city from Toronto, and lets just be clear when we say, you do Indian food right. Not only that, but I'm an avid reader of your cookbooks, and follow your success carefully.
I read recently about your marriage and how fond of your wife you are. You seem to have achieved a beautiful partnership when it comes to business. What's your secret to a successful romantic relationship? Aside from cooking up lamb Popsicles (also, If you wouldn't mind sharing the seasoning method/ingredients for those, I'd appreciate it).
Best of luck to you with Dragon's Den! Please come back for the next season of chopped!
I got chopped from Chopped because of conflict of networks.
I am humbled and honoured for the kind words. Secret to your marriage is to give each other breathing space and do things apart in order to be able to share your experiences. But saying that, no way does it mean that it has been easy working together and living together and we have had our challenges as well.
In the first cookbook, the lamb popsicle recipe is there but fenugreek is the key spice for the lamb popsicle sauce.
During the course of your journey before where you are now, have you ever had any challenges as an enterpreneur? If so, how did you stay focused or overcome them?
Even sitting here right now, my mind is running on the challenges I am facing every day. Challenges are part of being an entrepreneur. You overcome them by not getting frazzled but sitting with them and remaining focused. And if in your heart of hearts you know you have done the best, then that's all you can hope an ask for.
Didn't know about wine and appies in the back! Would you mind describing "How to go to Vij's and have a good time while dealing with the wait"? I've yet to go mostly due to inconsistent tales of the process.
Come, put your name down on the list at the back and hang out at the back. It's like a big huge house party!
Did you watch Dragon's den before you came on the show?
How did you get to be on the show?
What is one teaching of Ghandi that inspires you the most?
How do you balance your working life with raising two children?
Because of being in the restaurant business, you don't have set times when you come home. So once in a blue moon I would catch it on a Sunday and I always loved the entrepreneurial spirit of the pitches and the behaviour of the Dragons, especially Kevin and I would say to myself I would never be like him.
Two years ago, they asked me for an audition and I wore my full on Indian clothes with jewelry and all the pomp and I auditioned with all my heart. It took CBC a long time to do their due diligence to see if I was a good enough fit.
Gandhi G said "Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion."
I love my children and I love what I do. Our restaurants are like our children; we just share the love amongst all of us.
What's the best time to go to your restaurant and avoid the lineups?
Come on Monday nights at 9 PM and then the wait may not be that long. But! Why would you not want to hang out in the back and have a glass of wine and free appetizers that are great palate teasers? :)
How do you keep your employees "happy" or to make them stay to work for your restaurants for a long time?
Respect. Encouragement. And no hierarchy.
As a father and a business man, and your wife being very much involved in the restaurant business, how do you balance work and home?
Every relationship has its own formula - ours works :o)
The desire to bring awareness to the cuisine and the country that I left behind inspires me to do more and keep creating different dishes and sauces.
Love your restaurant, food truck, and cook books, thanks for contributing so much to the city.
Favorite high end and favorite "dive", in Vancouver?
First round is on me, if you ever swing by my dive ;-)
Favourite high end is Scott Jaegers Pear Tree Restaurant in Burnaby. I love going to Legendary Noodle House, but the food is delicious and I wouldn't call it a dive!
Is it true that Kevin left Dragon's Den CA because Jim raped him?
No, that's not true.