What Homelessness Taught Vikas Khanna

Many years before he became a Michelin-starred chef, one whose book UTSAV was presented to the likes of Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Francis, and the Dalai LamaVikas Khanna was a poor Indian immigrant in New York City who unexpectedly found himself homeless after the deli he worked for closed.

"Nobody dreams of becoming homeless," Khanna said during an appearance at Asia Society on Thursday. "It’s nobody’s plan"

Khanna described his homeless experience at the New York Rescue Mission in vivid detail. He arrived there one winter day to see a line of people waiting to attend a Christmas party. Asked whether he would stay the night, Khanna agreed — but gave a false name out of embarrassment. "You want to feel that you can become invisible," he said.

But his time at New York Rescue Mission taught him resilience, and even furthered his cooking career. During his stay, he began to cook meals for other residents, an activity that helped restore his dignity.

“You figure out one day that the sun is going to rise tomorrow and I’m going to be on my feet”

Watch the complete video below.

About the Author

Profile picture for user Matt Schiavenza

Matt Schiavenza is the Senior Content Manager at Asia Society. Previously, he worked as an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he helped launch and then oversee the China Channel.