Humans of Food: Horns Up with Sahil Makhija
Taste defines culture. Food, just like myths and stories and ancient heirlooms, are gems passed down to us from our ancestors. From the banana-leaf-wrapped goodness of the South to the meaty, seasoned curries of the North, India’s many diverse cultural lines are easily distinguished from one another by the foods they call their own. More than just a means of sustenance, food is an expression of emotion, a means of celebration, and a story waiting to be told. Welcome to TheVibe’s Humans of Food, a series in which we bring you authentic stories of people, cultures, places and thoughts, as told through the medium of food, and those who would make and consume it.
Meet Sahil Makhija, aka The Demonstealer himself. Lauded as a pioneer of the Indian metal scene, Sahil is the frontman of Mumbai-based Blackened Death Metal collective, Demonic Resurrection, with his other musical pursuits casting him in the role of drummer, guitarist, and vocalist for his other bands, the Death/Technical Metal Reptilian Death, and the comedic project Workshop, Sahil’s long and storied life is inseparable from his love of the genre. A man that dons many hats, Sahil has cemented his reputation not just as a musician, but also as a record label owner, author, chef, YouTube sensation and Ketogenic Guru for thousands across the globe.
The man and metal behind the sensational Headbanger’s Kitchen, Sahil first began his food journey at the ripe young age of 10 and hasn’t stopped since. “I was interested in eating food, and being a fussy eater, I eventually turned to cooking food as well- I didn’t trust anyone to do it right,” Sahil explains.
With dreams of owning his own restaurant as a professional chef by the time he reached the 8th grade, Sahil had his future all planned out- that was, until the fateful day upon which the Gods of Metal laid their eyes upon him.
“Towards the end of my schooling, I discovered metal through a couple of friends of mine from school, who had been introduced to it by their older brothers- ever since then I was hooked onto music and there’s been no looking back.”
Fast forward to the year 2007, when Demonic Resurrection was still in its nascent stages. While a majority of his life was now devoted to Metal and to his band, Sahil confesses that while cooking took a backseat, it was never truly gone.
“I never stopped cooking because unlike other hobbies, food is not something you remove from your life- you have to eat.” Sahil says, “While I never had any food ambitions, I cooked a fair amount because I liked to eat good food, and I was a control freak. I wanted to make my own food.”
Being one of the sole supporters of the budding local metal scene, it was not uncommon for touring bands to slum it out at Sahil’s while visiting the city. “I’d end up cooking breakfast for them, and I got a bit of a reputation as a decent chef.” Sahil explains, “They would come here and eat my Demonic Omelets- even my food was branded around the band name.” he laughs.
Posting a few of his recipes on his Facebook page under the name Demonic Cookery, Sahil found himself inspired by the likes of YouTube cooking collectives, Epic Meal Time and the BBQ Pit Boys. “Watching this stuff and YouTube becoming a big thing in India, with connections improving so that we’re all able to stream, and DR doing its first music video, it all made me think- you know if I’m posting all these recipes online, why don’t I make a video out of it?”
Joining forces with the director of Demonic Resurrection’s first music video, Srinivas Sunderrajan, the seeds for Headbangers Kitchen were first sown, with an idea to make a metal-heavy cooking show featuring interviews with some of the biggest names in the global scene, over a meal of recipes inspired by those bands. The first season featured such enduring symbols of this marriage between heavy metal and delicious cooking as the Chicken Karni Stew & Appam, created in honour of the legendary Karnivool, the Bhayanak Bacon Bomb, inspired by Bhayanak Maut, and many many more.
With some great footage under their belt, and some even better recipes to brag of, Sahil and Srinivas began approaching travel and lifestyle channels in the hopes that they may bring Headbanger’s Kitchen to a wider audience. “As most things with Metal in India, it didn’t really go anywhere,” Sahil laughs.
With Srinivas and his crew being forced to back off of the project after about 8 episodes due to other commitments, Sahil carried the torch of Headbanger’s Kitchen forward himself. “I did what I could- I got lights, I hired people, I got my own camera, I did the sound editing, for about 1-2 years I did it as best I could,” Sahil explains. “We used to shoot in my living room, which meant we’d bring out the gas cylinder from the kitchen, I’d get a makeshift stove, I’d move tables, chairs, block the hall away- it was a lot of work, and I did everything at home, so it wasn’t like I went to a studio where everything was set up. In hindsight, if I did that it would probably have been a better idea.” Sahil laughs.
After successfully crowdfunding a 4th season, Sahil found his motivation wavering, and with his career in music calling to him, Sahil soon decided to make a departure from Headbanger’s Kitchen, resigned to only shoot at his leisure, and when he truly felt like it. Fast forward to December of 2016, 5 years into the legacy of Headbanger’s Kitchen, when Sahil began the Keto diet.
“I was eating cauliflower pizza, zucchini spaghetti, and it was incredible!” Sahil says, “I was like, I just made a pizza out of cauliflower! I have to film this!”
It was this change in direction that truly uplifted the channel, which quickly gained global popularity amongst Ketogenic enthusiasts.
“From there on there was motivation,” Sahil explains, “not only was there a buzz about the channel, where people were asking for more recipes, but there was also financial incentive. I firmly believe you need one or the other- you either work because you are being paid and its worth your time monetarily, or because you’re seeing growth. When you don’t have either, that’s when it’s not working.”
Over the next 6 months, Sahil invested more time into Keto recipes and eventually quit his day job. “I was making enough money on the channel,” he says, “that’s why I’m here today as a YouTuber that does Keto recipes.”
°The Ketogenic Phenomenon
A low-carb, high-fat dietary phenomenon, Keto involves drastically reducing carbohydrate intake, replacing the extra carbs with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, which can be very beneficial for those suffering from a variety of ailments, such as type 2 diabetes.
When asked why one might consider making the switch to Keto, Sahil explains that the diet, much like any other diet, may not be for everyone. “I don’t believe that there is one diet that fits everybody.” Sahil explains, “Keto as a diet, like any other, requires commitment, think of it as a lifestyle. Anytime you go into something thinking of it as a diet, it fails, because diets are something that people do short term, thinking they want to lose some weight, and then they finish the diet they go back to bad eating habits because that whole cycle restarts.”
“If you’re someone suffering from with ailments like type 2 diabetes, it’s always good to look towards food. I can see from testimonies of people watching my channel how many of them have gone off of different kinds of medication, how many have reversed their diabetes, got rid of chronic pain and illnesses.” Sahil says, “Diet can be an effective treatment for a lot of things.”
°The Headbanger’s Journey
While music will forever be an integral element of Sahil’s journey, he has famously had something of a love/hate relationship with it all. With the niche audience of Metalheads around the country, the genre never sees as much growth and popularity in India as it does overseas.
“I’ve been fairly cranky over the last few years, but after the pandemic hit, I’ve had a bit of a perspective shift,” Sahil admits. Taking some time away from the scene, and faced with the troubling headlines that tell of our nation’s troubling political and humanitarian atmosphere, Sahil explains a newfound sense of gratitude towards his music, and his privilege in the age of the Novel Coronavirus.
“I think it’s to do with reconnecting with why I’m playing music, which is for me. I think when you’re in the industry for so long you start to have these expectations, you get annoyed because you don’t reach those expectations,” Sahil says, “I’m feeling better about things. Where am I going? I don’t know, but all in all, I’m going to have fun with music and do the very best I can, and make the most of the privilege that I have to sit at home and write Death Metal music.”
When asked what advice he would give to those hoping to follow in his footsteps, Sahil leaves us with a message that spans all creative pursuits, from cooking to music, and from writing to vlogging. “Do it simply because you love doing it, work hard at it and give it 110% and always look to be better today than you were yesterday- that will keep you satisfied longer, and you’ll be more inclined to do it,” he says, “if you wanna be a musician, keep your day job, and do the music because you love doing it, especially if you’re a metal musician,” he laughs.
°Rapid Fire Round
Q: What’s on your Spotify/Apple Music playlist right now?
A: Bloodshot Dawn
Q: What have you been binge-watching while in isolation?
A: MasterChef Australia
Q: What was the last book you read?
A: Game of Thrones, the 5th book
Q: Describe your tastes in one word or phrase.
A: Death Metal
Q: What is your ‘Last Supper’ meal?
A: Grade 5 Kobe Beef with triple cooked chips and sourdough toast with lots of butter
Q: Favourite comfort food?
A: Sandwiches, any sandwich
Q: Cat person or dog person?
A: Cat person
Q: Favourite ingredient to cook with?
A: Ground beef
Q: Cuisine you have always wanted to try cooking?
A: Middle Eastern
Q: Cold pizza or hot pizza?
A: Hot Pizza
All images used in this article are courtesy of Sahil Makhija and belong rightfully to their original owners.
©️ 2020 Gut and Flow Media Pvt. Ltd.