A native of Assam, Kabyashree Borgohain is a design strategist, a food researcher and chef, and an alumnus of the prestigious National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar. Her experience in Design and Design Education over the years gave the much-needed push for her cafe — Project Otenga. Apparently, the project sprouted through her passion for food, learning and design and as part of her graduation project thesis at NID. Through this cafe, she brings the taste of North-Eastern cuisine to Gujaratis. Located inside the university campus, the café encourages multi-disciplinary collaboration and at the same time gifts quality moments to its patrons in its calm and creative space and promotes compassionate practices.
Borgohain was a keynote speaker at the recently concluded Pune Design Festival that was organised by Association of Designers of India, where she spoke about how the food industry is being dominated by technology and design. Here, she gives us greater insight into new trends like gastrophysics and how to avoid food wastage, among other things.
“Food is one such industry where customers drive the trends, so whatever people like, no matter how bizarre, it is always going to be trending,” jokes Borgohain. However, she points out that more and more people are now ready to try molecular gastronomy and gastrophysics.
“Molecular gastronomy has been trending for quite sometime now, but what is new is gastrophysics,” she says. Borgohain explains that gastrophysics is the science behind a good meal. Different elements in the surroundings have a direct impact on the taste.
“The utensils that are used to cook and even serve and present the food have a major effect on how it tastes, for example, if you eat butter with an iron spoon you will find it more salty than when you are having it with a stainless steel spoon,” Borgohain explains.
She points out that even the light, music in the room etc have a tremendous effect on your taste buds. It either enhances or diminishes your tasting experience. Borgohain points out that wine tastes different in a well lit room and a darker room; in the latter it tastes more bitter.
Curbing food wastage
Borgohain says that technology and innovation can help curb food wastage. However, there are lots of options that can be followed in a more organic way.
Borgohain says that when it comes to the Indian food industry stricter norms should be followed by the professionals. “At my cafe, I have a very ethical practice, we do not have pre-cooked food. Everything is made from scratch once the customer places the order. This not only helps control food wastage but also helps us deliver a fresh dish to customers which adds to the flavour and taste,” she says.
She is of the opinion that when it comes to food, such techniques and recipes must be used that help in utilising all parts of the vegetables or ingredients. “Of course there are times when wastage is inevitable both at restaurants and at home, but in such cases innovative thinking comes in handy, rack your brains and find methods and recipes in which leftover food can be used and consumed again,” she suggests.
Will robots ever cook?
“Many people talk about how in the future robots will cook food for humans,” says Borgohain. However, she does not agree that they will ever be able to cook delicious food like humans.
“When it comes to humans cooking is a form of expressing emotions. They cook with a lot of concentration and with love, which indeed gets transferred to the plate, but can a robot do the same? No, it will only follow algorithms, so the food will obviously taste different,” she says.
She points out that in the future artificial intelligence may be able to whip up dishes in the kitchen. Innovation will eventually get there, but a robot will never be able to cook food the way you do for your loved ones. “A robot will never cook according to your food preferences, it will not identify if you are not keeping well and cook a homely khichdi for you,” concludes Borgohain.