The Pune chapter of the 6th International Young Chef Olympiad, India, saw some interesting ideas coming from the participants and also from the globally renowned chefs who had come to town to attend it.
A chef’s table was also a part of the event. Organised by the International Institute of Hotel Management Pune, along with International Hospitality Council, the chef’s table was hosted at JW Marriott Hotel Pune. The food experts, who attended it, mostly spoke about how to bring sustainability into the food chain.
Chef Andreas Muller from Hong Kong pointed out that landfills are increasing at an alarming rate. This is because of the huge amount of waste that is generated everyday. “Even though food decomposes, the real challenge is how to deal with the plastic trash,” said Muller. However, we can overcome this problem with mindful thinking.
“A simple step is to omit the use of plastic from the kitchen and food chain. Another one is sourcing vegetables and fruits locally rather than importing exotic produce, which leaves a huge carbon footprint,” Muller added.
He further mentioned that organic food has become important in today’s world which is why it is necessary to inculcate the knowledge of organic food among individuals since a young age. “Promote organic food markets and produce. This way you will not only save the environment but promote healthy economic growth as well,” he said.
A green approach
When it comes to food we hardly take a sustainable approach. The chefs agreed that farming needs to be popular again and every young person must know at least the basics.
Muller added that sustainability in food has to be real and not something superficial. A sustainable food system is a type of food system that provides healthy food to people while creating a sustainable impact on the environmental, economic and social systems that surround food.
With virus outbreaks happening frequently across the world, UK-based chef Andy Varma said that it has become even more important now to think about a sustainable food system, and why one needs to eat food that is healthy, natural and free of synthetic chemicals.
Varma pointed out that in India, recipes have been handed down from generation to generation. “Most of the recipes have always used local produce belonging to a particular region. So there has always been some ingredient in it which is good for health. This was one of the ways that people in earlier days promoted sustainability in Indian kitchens. It is quite easy to follow and does not need a huge effort,” said Varma.
Wastage in any form is bad and food wastage is criminal. Controlling food wastage is something every major hotel chain is doing, but we need to accelerate the process.
“Nowadays, hotels give the extra food cooked in their kitchens to NGOs who feed the homeless, but in many cases, this food often becomes stale because of improper storage conditions, so storage needs to be proper to diminish the chances of food wastage,” said Rahul Akerkar, founder of Indigo, a fine-dining restaurant.
Talking about a few ways which can help reduce food wastage, Muller said, “Innovative thinking comes to play here. Make sure you use most parts of vegetables and ingredients when cooking a dish without wasting it. Also, cook in smaller batches and make everything from scratch only when the order is placed — this not only delivers a fresh and tasty dish, but also solves the issue of wastage.”
People, especially youngsters, enjoy food which is in vogue. “As chefs reinventing food is fun but it is not always easy to live up to the expectations of patrons who come in and say ‘Surprise me’,” said Akerkar.
When asked what food trends will be a rage in 2020, Akerkar wittily said that if he knew, he would probably be a billionaire by now!
“Food and food preferences are constantly evolving, and it gets challenging to make something that everyone will like. However, most of us have realised that re-introducing food is a rage among the millennials — they don’t like traditional stuff but fancy things, so instead of haldiwala doodh, we rename it, call it Golden Latte — and boom, it’s a rage,” he said.