Delhi, 25th Nov’13: Under the New Delhi winter sun, industry influencers, celebrated restaurateurs, award winning chefs and passionate gourmands came together for “Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants” sponsored by S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna and organised by William Reed Business Media. The intimate round table in India was hosted by Indian Accent and presented an animated forum with enthusiastic participation from all present. It was led by Ms Rashmi Uday Singh (Academy Chair, India, Central Asia & Subcontinent for both World’s and Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants) along with host Chef Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent (also the Advisory Board Member for the 2014 Workshops and Forum)
Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants is part of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants series, globally recognized as the most trusted arbiter and credible indicator of the best places to eat around the globe. As part of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards to be held on 24 February 2014 at Capella Singapore, leading international chefs will participate in a series of workshops and join a forum discussing current culinary trends. In preparation the intimate round table luncheon was organised to meet some of the presenters and hear them introduce topics covered in the forum.
The topics at the Indian round table covered spanned the co-existence and balance of tradition with innovation; the burgeoning Indian presence on the list, the future of Indian food within the country and globally onto discussing culinary trends from sustainability to the popularization of regional and street food.
The indulgent afternoon was a notable first as three of Asia’s best chefs – came together to create a special 10 course menu and cooked in the open air lawns of The Manor. The highlights included: chef Manish Mehrotra’s innovative “churan ka karela” balanced with puffed quinoa and bitter crisp; Chef Gaggan Anand’s (from Bangkok) dazzling chowpati year 2050” a modern papri chaat made of yoghurt spheres with date chutney gell, savoury crisps and chutney air; and a taste of the sea with Chef Dharshan Munidasa’s (from Colombo) signature dish “no name sashimi” that was composed of sea bream, sesame and soy sauce.
Present on the occasion were:
Host Rohit Khattar of Old World Hospitality, Restaurateurs AD Singh, Riyaaz Amlani, Raman Macker, Chef Marut Sikka, Chef Rahul Akrekar, Chef Manjit Gill, Chef Arun Kumar; Hotelier Priya Paul, Oenophile Sanjay Menon, Sommelier Magandeep Singh; gourmands : media moghul Aroon Purie; anchors Mayur Singh and Seema Chandra.
William Drew, editor Restaurant Magazine at William Reed Business Media:
In 2013, Indian restaurants has a strong showing on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, as you would expect, and gave a glimpse of the enormous variety of cuisine styles on offer in the country – both in terms of regional variations and in terms of traditional versus contemporary”.
“This is the largest international Asia 50 Best round table that has taken place and what a gathering! Three of the best chefs are going to serve us a superlative meal, on this wonderful winter afternoon thanks to our host Rohit Khattar and chef Manish Mehrotra.
The round table for “Asia’s 50 best Restaurant academy” is a trail blazer in every sense of the term. For the first time ever not only brings together leading opinion makers, chefs, hoteliers and restaurant owners to brainstorm together, giving them a sneak preview of the exciting events lined up in Singapore but also tasting the creations of three brilliant chefs from three different countries at one meal time. And to think that this is just a preview of our final event in Singapore, where this experience will only be magnified, many times over. It is an honor for me to host this prestigious forum at Indian Accent. Exciting too.”
Chef Manish Mehrotra, (Advisory Board Member for the 2014 Workshops and Forum):
“It is a privilege for us at Indian Accent to host such a prestigious forum with such esteemed participants whose body of work is so incredible. I am really looking forward to going to Singapore for the final event where I am certain this experience will be further enhanced.
“I have served today Shakarkandi chaat with Duck – both of these ingredients go very well with each other. I don’t come from Indian food background (Thai was his speciality) and that I think that actually worked well for me. The most important thing that Indian food needs today is documentation and archiving. Its the need of the hour”.
Visiting International Chef Gaggan Anand from Bangkok:
“As an Indian I have memories of attending countless Indian weddings where the expresso coffee becomes the cappucino in steam machines. Today my Truffle Cappucino presented at this lunch brings alive that memory in me. I represent the food of the common man – papri chat and dhokla in Bangkok and am lucky enough that people like it !”
Visiting international chef Dharshan Munidasa
“Japanese food got popular only after 1995 to the extent it is today and exploded as a movement worldwide. Our secret today is common knowledge (smiles). Few things helped: its cute and small and healthy – so appeals to the American people. Also it is ingredient specific – you need thousand of tuna to buy one – it is graded – the best is sent back to Japan (laughs) and the bad ones are given to the rest of the world to it (smiles) – the main point is the close attention to quality of ingredients”.
Chef Manjit Gill:
“The beauty of Indian food is that it gives you a strong foundation – a base, the key ingredients and a recipe and then you are free to play with it and bring it alive with your own creativity. A kadhi will hence have the key ingredients – and then each household and each chef will bring it alive with their imagination. Indian food allows you to play with your local flora and fauna. What is important for us is to understand our food. We do not understand the science of six tastes. Worldwide four tastes are spoken of – we are still trying to understand the concept of Ummammi. There is karma of taste. Vedic and Ayurvedic cooking captures it – we as Indians need to understand its importance.
A Japanese chef will only use a Japanese knife and travel with it. Indians need to respect their tradition and learn from them. We have our traditional utensils and there is a reason for it. The next big thing people will talks of? Neuro gastronomy…”
Chef and Restaurateur Marut Sikka
“There are 16 to 17 different ways you can make a Meen Moilee. But for me, what Manish does with it takes it to another level. He put Thai Fish Sauce in it. There is a the element of surprise, then your comfort line and finally the trend line – you need to be able to balance them all. When AD set up Olive in the city a decade ago, he pioneered a whole new trend”.
Restaurateur AD Singh
“As a company we have been careful with innovation on food, at Olive it has been more about bring alive a larger experience for the customer. Now we are creating new concepts in restaurants. We have just opened an Iran cafe – picking up a part of Indian culinary legacy and that’s how we as a company are playing with the balance of tradition with modernity”.
“We often associate culture with the past. Today your culture sphere is your influence factor. Indian food served as traditional or innovative, I am delighting in both the journeys”.
Chef and Restaurateur Rahul Akrekar
“Beauty of food is in its diversity not standardization. We are talking about tradition versus innovation – we need all of it – the cutting edge, the new techniques, the growth – its time to embrace the wonder culinary movement sweeping India”
Priya Paul of Park Hotels:
“Trend of regional cuisine from India gaining popularity is heartening. Kerela restaurants are now coming up and it is very heartening we need more of this to become a movement”.
“For me its about going back to the basics which are the key building blocks. If I am tabling the Onam Sadhya, it needs to be preserved with tradition intact and to remember your roots and keep the authenticity alive is very important”.
Gourmand and editor Seema Chandra:
“The internet is going to be the key driving force in the next ten years and bloggers influence is only going to grow. The bigger change is see in the next decade is people going to be more conscious of where their food comes from, the food labelling will become more scientific ad people increasingly question the source more and more”.
Sommelier Magandeep Singh:
“With wines you have to holistic in India. We drink before our meals and it will be a while before it changes. We have to accept that – just like that we also have robust flavours in our cuisine. The first of wines here have been only about twenty years ago so you can’t afford to have fixed pairings. It’s all about personal threshold – and then you strike out – hence innovation has to co exist with tradition”.
Rashmi Uday Singh:
“We often wonder why Indian restaurants are not winning enough accolades on an international level. What is required for Indian food to grow with international recognition?”
Gourmand and Food Critic Sourish Bhattacharya:
“I am reading a wonderful book currently – Provence 1970. It explores the future of food I America, the meaning of taste and its fascinating. It’s all about breaking the paradigm.
I don’t think five stars invest enough in proper showcase of Indian food. They have the money and need to dedicate more resources to bring alive the possibilities of the country’s cuisine”.
Restaurateur Rohit Khattar:
“It’s just round the corner. There is the notion of Indian food is cheap affordable and curry. Indian food is that and can be more. The movement has started and slowly the recognition will come that Indian food can also be cutting edge. When I set up Indian Accent I were worried people will call it contrived. The balance of tradition and innovation is the key”
“Give it one more generation and you will see a sweep. We are nascent as an industry – we will get there”.
“Top dining experience in India is still Indian. It is also about experiencing the country. Question is now many top food writers actually come to India to experience the country – their knowledge of India and the numbers of travelers to India are both limited right now. The Japanese started travelling out of their country and they were hesitant to eat any other cuisine but their own. Americans first embraced Japanese cuisine because that is where the Japanese diaspora first settled – which in turn led to awareness and movement for Japanese food. It is the Indian diaspora which will do the same for our country. The first to move out and make a mark have been the Punjabis and hence Indian food is commonly equated to be land of curry – butter chicken and daal makhani”.