Nobody Diets in the Headbanger’s Kitchen

Aradhna Wal enters the lair of a YouTube microtrend and discovers raw, heavy flavours

The demon dishes it out Sahil Makhija
The demon dishes it out: Sahil Makhija

A SET of knives glistens on the tables, next to a skull. Nervecell’s Demean plays in the background — their characteristic bloodcurdling oldschool death metal with a Dubai twist. A man with long black hair and goatee picks up a sharp blade and wields it with finesse. He is chopping potatoes. Meet Sahil Makhija, aka Demonstealer, the 29- year-old vocalist of the popular Mumbai-based death metal band Demonic Resurrection and chef on his own YouTube cookery show Headbanger’s Kitchen.
What does one ask a metal head who cooks? Dude, how did this happen? He has been Demonstealer since he was 15, but Sahil started cooking a long time before music came along. Influenced by his mother and grandfather’s homemade fare, he fell in love with food. “I wanted to be a chef when
I was 12 and never stopped cooking since,” he says. Watching professionals like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver on television, he started experimenting. He started Headbanger’s Kitchen in March 2011. And enjoys the discordant note it makes. “Some fans reacted badly. I am breaking stereotypes here.” A portion of the fan base expected Makhija to be splattering blood and eating raw carcasses, not baking. Makhija finds these enclaves of extremism amusing. “The biggest surprise,” he says, “is coming across other metal heads cooking. I don’t know if it’s because of the show or if I’m the one discovering them now.”
For a lot of Indian metal fans, Sahil’s format works just great. Metal acts such as the UAE band Nervecell, Australian band Karnivool and the Greek metal drummer George Kollias turn up on his show. Sahil cooks, interviews and feeds them. Fans love to see their favourites interviewed by an insider who knows his music and asks the right questions. They are the show’s core viewer base, averaging 3,000 hits per episode. That may not seem impressive but the numbers are steady and the comments are largely from very happy viewers.
Metal is an integral part of his identity; raw and heavy just like his cooking. The very first episode of Headbanger’s Kitchen tells you what you’re in for. As does the name of the dish, Demonic Beef Burgers and Rustic Potatoes, his favourite. It is rich, heavy, meaty and meant for pure indulgence. Enjoyment is written all over Makhija’s face as he lays the bacon on beef patties atop buttered buns. Or when he serves the Bhayanak Bacon Bomb and Cheesy Potatoes. Or Djentleman’s Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy.
Between food and music, what would he choose? “Music any day,” he asserts. He’s having to make a version of that Sophie’s choice just now. He’ll spend time away from the kitchen this year to make up for a discouraging 2011. Demonic Resurrection played just nine shows and their UK tour was cancelled due to visa problems. So when Headbanger’s Kitchen started, many took that as a sign of Makhija’s desertion. Sample a telling YouTube comment: “It hurts me to see the only predominant rock scene in India somehow getting lost in between chicken and lamb rather than being in studios.” Makhija is unfazed. Before the show takes a break, he promises to recreate his grandfather’s pork chops and mother’s cheese macaroni.
Aradhna Wal is a Trainee, Features with Tehelka.