Celebrity chef Vicky Ratnani is a cool dad, who lets his daughter use social media and stir up a storm in the kitchen, but making sure she stays grounded.
By Shilpi Madan
He’s just back in town, in between his rather hectic shoot schedules. Celeb chef Vicky Ratnani’s (of food shows Vickypedia, Vicky Goes Veg, cook book Vicky Goes Non Veg fame) Facebook presence is replete with fun moments shared with his 14-year-old daughter, Tanisha (affectionately nicknamed Tanzy). They clearly share a warm, brilliant bond. One that involves whipping up smoothies and cakes in the kitchen to snacking together on a Burger King whopper at a mall to catching a movie together, listening to music and playing Bingo.
Here are excerpts from a conversation with Vicky:
Do you manage to spend enough time with Tanisha?
Well, we live together in the same house (laughs). But seriously, yes, it is not that I am out every day or am shooting round the clock. Even if I am not around, I call her to say hi! I am aware of her schedule—she goes for dance classes, has tuitions.
So you are pretty clued in?
Oh yes. Sometimes, I call up her teachers and check on her performance. I am still trying to get a grip of her IB curriculum though, as I have done ICSE. But I am plugged in, all right. My wife Piya is around more than I am, though.
So you’re cool with Tanzy having her own Facebook account?
Yes. As parents we share an honest, cool bond with her. Tanzy is quite sorted in her head. She knows there are certain rules that come with this deal. Not accepting friend requests from strangers. No latching into FB post-school. She is quite busy with her school, hobby classes and tuitions, and us, to take much time out for FB anyway. She also understands that if the rules are flouted, I am capable of deleting her FB account. So we have an understanding in place. Get good grades, behave well and you will get what you deserve. There are no shortcuts.
Any screen time specifics?
She loves catching up cooking specials on YouTube and has quite an evolved palate. Tanzy improvises in her own ways, adding Sichuan chutney to rev up the flavour of a dish, or her own curious additions and combinations. She is quite a foodie and picks up her own basket to shop for cold cuts and ingredients when we shop at a food mart. I get to learn a lot too (smiles).
But when we are having a meal together, no phones, please. Even I tell myself that unless it is a really important call, I will not answer my phone. Else, we will look like three idiots hooked onto our respective screens.
Do both of you rustle up anything in the kitchen whenever you are around?
Yes, very often. We just made a “whatever-is-in-the-fridge” salad the other day. We favour smoothies and juices. Tanisha loves the pasta I prepare, with mushrooms and tomatoes. A favourite recipe with her is a refreshing smoothie concoction—half a red apple, half a green apple, coconut water, a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of lime. Tastes superb.
If you could, you would…
Encourage her more to pursue a sport of her choice. Tanzy is a plump child, but she is so comfortable in her skin. I encourage her to eat healthy all the time, like any other parent, and she tells me that she is enjoying her food (shrugs and smiles).
So does she have you wrapped around her little finger?
Well, she is a single child, but has a sister in Bella (our dog) who is very much a loved member of our family. Then my brother Dabboo (Ratnani, the celeb photographer) has three kids and they look up to her as an elder sister. Tanisha loves that. Also, she knows that I have been there, done that, so she cannot push me beyond a certain limit. I have caught her a couple of times trying to pull on a fast one on me, so she knows I am clued in. Piya tends to be more liberal than me. I am a cool dad, but old school in certain ways.
All domestic help must be addressed as “bhaiya”, “didi”…even my driver is Kamlesh ji for her. No first names. Also we have domestic help, but Tanzy has to fetch her own food stuff from the kitchen, clear up her own plate after eating. There has to be respect for others. Also, Tanzy is growing up and need not have a wardrobe bursting with clothes that she will outgrow soon enough. So everything in moderation. I am particular about her maintenance of her room, about her switching off lights, fans, AC, when not in use.
How different is her upbringing, compared to yours?
Completely different. We have grown up in a joint family with cousins and relatives around all the time. Tanisha is growing up as a single child in a nuclear family. The media infusion is there, of course.
Share a parenting hack.
I believe, as parents, we need to strike a good balance between listening to our kids, agreeing with them and yet standing firm on our opinion when the situation demands. We are the parents, and we call the shots at the end of the day. Love is love, discipline is discipline, jokes are jokes, but there is a line that must be observed. We love our kids and want the best for them. Tanzy is a good kid, but as a parent I need to make sure that reality checks are in place and she understands why these checks need to be there. It is because we love her. I think it is very important for us parents to hang out with our kids, chat with them, be clued in with what they are doing.
I do just this. I think kids can be quite sharp. You have to tune into whatever is happening in their lives. If you give love, you get love. Mutual trust and faith are important ingredients and go a long way in forming a lifelong relationship with our children.
How do you indulge Tanzy?
She is crazy about shoes. So, sometimes, I buy her a pair she yearns for.
And then how do you keep her grounded?
Just yesterday, I told her that her grades are improving and that is great. If she gets lousy grades, she goes to a lousy college. I am not a rich dad who will shell out money if she goofs up on her academics, to get her into a good college. Tanisha is an intelligent kid and I am very honest with her. She knows where I am coming from.
How have you changed as a person after becoming a father?
Well, I used to be short-tempered earlier. Now, I observe how people around, my friends, interact with their kids, analyse and come up with my own ways.
So what holds you in great stead, as a father?
My experience in dealing with people: I have worked with 38 different nationalities so far in my career and was managing a team of 140 people aboard a cruise liner at one point. I sincerely believe that dealing with kids does need people management skills, and my expertise here comes handy. Together with morale building and motivation, I give Tanisha a certain degree of responsibility and tools to be able to perform well. I am both firm and flexible, depending on the situation. Sometimes when my wife experiences trouble in getting a point across to Tanzy, I intervene and take over. That’s parenting.
Best part about being a dad?
Being a dad (smiles broadly).