With her hastily yet impeccably prepared native tandoori chicken dish, Chef Shipra Khanna became the winner of season two of MasterChef India, the Indian spinoff of the American hit show MasterChef. After impressing 100 judges and winning the equivalent of around €100,000 for her efforts, her only mission then was to not cry; she’d done enough of that in young 29 years already. She said at the time she would donate a portion of her winnings to a school near her hometown serving special needs children; as part of her prize, she also won a contract to host her own show on Star Plus as well as a three-night, four-day London, England vacation. But this is all trimmings, as Khanna may describe it, for, as any sufficiently intimate biography of Shipra Khanna will express, cooking did more than earn her a paycheck–it literally saved her life.
Shipra Khanna was born on November 18, 1981 in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India to father Balween Khanna, a jewelry shop owner, and mother Radha Khanna. She has one sibling, a brother named Akshay Khanna, who helps their father run his jewelry shop. Shipra attended Loreta convent school in Upper Kaithu followed by St. Bede’s College in the same area. There, she completed a degree program in Economics and Psychology.
When the age of Shipra Khanna was still young, she was married to an abusive husband, both psychologically and physically, with whom she spent several miserable and tortured years. Except for her two kids, cooking was her only source of comfort and escape during those trying times of repeated, ongoing domestic abuse. With a physically handicapped daughter who could only eat in the home and needed to keep her weight down, Khanna had to invent new, healthy culinary experiments in the kitchen all the time, whether reinventing some of her child’s most cherished fast foods, perfecting Italian cuisine or putting her own original twist on classic Indian dishes.
When she was 19 years old, her own father became the victim of one of her husband’s vicious attacks, and that was the last straw for her. She’d finally had enough and left her husband for good, prompting a bitter fight for custody of their children; she also suffered dowry abuse at the hands of her spouse and his family.
Enrolling in cooking classes helped her channel and reduce her stress during this chaotic period. It was also during this emotionally trying time that Khanna’s mother submitted an application on her behalf to MasterChef India.
After now Master Chef Shipra Khanna’s 2012 nationally televised victory, she rose to become one of the country’s most popular female chefs on television, not to mention most beloved public figures in general. What started out as a coping mechanism and form of self-therapy turned into her one-way ticket to freedom and empowerment.
She went on to judge several Food TV cooking competition programs, including Food Food’s Pure Sin with Shipra Khanna and K for Kids; she also appeared with Saif Ali Khan as a celebrity chef on Britannia Cheese Star Chef. She’s hosted Good Food Guide Season 2 and Flavors of Ramadan Season 3, both also on Star Plus, among other international food television programs.
Today, Chef Shipra Khanna writes food-related articles and books, such as on brain-boosting foods, runs cooking workshops and seminars and gives Ted Talks on subjects like children’s nutrition. She has an active Instagram account as replete with high fashion as with high-end cuisine, and she’s penned many cookbooks that have sold like naan. Her cookbook “Sinfully Yours” was named the Best TV Celebrity Cookbook at the 2017 World Gourmand Awards held in China; it was the first cookbook penned by a chef from India to win the award. Also that year, the Spanish Ambassador to India declared her The Culinary Ambassador to Spain. A busy year for Khanna, indeed, 2017 also found her training chefs along with travel guru Yatra in the Nicobar and Andaman Islands.
She opened her first restaurant H.O.T. – House of Taste in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 2013. In 2017, she opened her second dining venue, in New Delhi, The Darzi Bar & Kitchen.
First and foremost, in whatever she does, Shipra Khanna aims to raise awareness about food as more than a source of pleasure and about human beings’ own capacity for courage, tenacity and self-reinvention. This is, perhaps, nowhere more evident than in her popular Ted Talk “Feed Your Girl Child” about her setbacks and obstacles on the road to her success. In it, she talks about the stigma following girls into male-dominated careers and implores parents to empower their daughters with messages of self-respect.
A Shipra Khanna biography is most likely to list her most prestigious awards, like the Culinary Connoisseur Award granted to her in 2014 by Australia tourism and Cox and Kings; or, the Women Chef Taking Taste Beyond Borders award bestowed to her in 2017 by SAARCS Chamber Women Entrepreneurs Council (SCWEC); or, the 2017 award for Best Television Chef Book Outside Europe given as part of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. In 2019, the Miss Russian LA pageant invited her to be one of its judges.
More recently, she was selected to host Tata Sky’s Tadka Mar Ke, a program that brings together food and travel. The latest season brought Khanna’s gastronomic expertise and discriminating palate to the Uttarakhand cities of Rishikesh, Haridwar, Mansoori and Dehradun; dishes explored on these journeys include Gahat soup, Kandali ka saag, and Aloo ke Gutke. As she does in all her other work with the public, this show highlights Chef Shipra Khanna’s uncanny ability to take simple ingredients and turn them into complex dishes people can nonetheless recreate at home.
Lesser-known fun facts about Shipra Khanna include her non-cooking-related passions for yoga, meditation, traveling and photography. She’s even played the role of fashion model now and again, seen walking the runway and red carpet alike at various events. She loves architecture as well, and notes the interrelationships between it and cooking. An avid environmental advocate, she also campaigns frequently for planting trees throughout India. She also loves riding motorcycles and going scuba diving.
Well-known among fans for her penchant for sweets and fusion food, she counts among her favorite foods French gourmet food, mille-feuille (a layered French pastry) and croissants as well as Indian tandoori and English-bread. She also has a love of Indian street food and often shares her passion for it on social media. Among her favorite dining destinations are London and New York, while her favorite chefs include Vikas Khanna, Kunal Kapur and Sanjeev Kapoor. She counts Kunal Kapur among her cooking mentors along with Ajay Chopra.
Shipra Khanna started her cooking career by competing in and winning Season 2 of MasterChef India.
Shipra Khanna is currently unmarried after having divorced her abusive former husband at the age of nineteen.
While Vikas Khanna is a judge on MasterChef India, he and Shipra Khanna are not related nor, despite rumors to the contrary, were ever in a relationship.