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Indian restaurants overseas are doing disservice to Indian food: Chef Hemant Oberoi

Monday, October 26, 2015, 10:00 Hrs  [IST]
P Krishna Kumar| New Delhi

Speaking at the third annual Chef Summit organised by Indian Culinary Forum (ICF) as part of the International Chef Day and Chef Awards, Master Chef Hemant Oberoi observed that the “so-called’ Indian restaurants abroad are doing disservice to Indian food by serving food which are bogus and far from authentic . This, he said, has created confusion in the minds of people about Indian food. Chef Oberoi was speaking on ‘Indian food: Traditional v/s modern’.

“Food traditions should be kept and maintained,” Chef Oberoi said. A lot of science is involved in preparation of Indian food, which needed to be adhered to and respected while preparing Indian cuisines. There are about 9,800 Indian restaurants in London, out of which 9,750 serve “rubbish”, he said. The owners of these restaurants haven’t seen India even once in their life, he observed.

 As a piece of advice, he asked young chefs, whom he addressed as Gen’Text’, to learn the basics about Indian cooking first before jumping into the ‘contemporary’ bandwagon. “Don’t start with contemporary food,” he cautioned. Commenting on the rage of molecular gastronomy, he said that one should first know what can be converted into a molecular food and what not. “One can be very modern in different ways without compromising the originality,” he said. India has more than 25,000 recipes, yet we are running behind molecular food, he lamented. He said that efforts needed to be streamlined to revive traditional cuisines which were forgotten by our generation.

 Participating in the discussion, Chef Manjit Singh Gill, Corporate Chef, ITC Group and President of Indian Federation of Culinary Associations (IFCA) said that Indian food is evolved though centuries and is based on the philosophy of wellness. On the other hand, modern food is more of a fashion food. While creativity and innovations are permitted, everyone should recognize the science behind the food, the role of each ingredient, etc. , he said. He advised aspiring chefs to master their regional cuisine first before going to conquer the alien recipes.

The session was moderated by popular columnist and food writer, Vir Sanghvi. In his introductory remarks, Sanghvi said that many restaurants which have enviable reputation for Indian food were created by people from non-catering institute backgrounds. He opined that one of the reasons for the extinction of many regional cuisines over generations is the absence of the culture of eating out. Indians never ate out unless they travel outside their homes, he added.

Taking part in another discussion on ‘Branding Chefs: Role of Social Media’, celebrity Chef Sanjeev Kapoor said that it is paramount to adapt as quickly as possible new technology platforms as and when they emerge. The reach that social media can deliver is huge. The impact it creates is instant, he said. However, he cautioned that one should make sure that he is sharing something which is “worth sharing” to make an impact.

Speaking on the subject, Chef Sabyasachi Gorai said that it is important to be honest and sincere on the social media. Social media is full of pretensions, but pretensions cannot last long. There is nothing wrong to start small, he said.

Moderating the session, Avijit Arya of Internet Mogul observed that it was originality that works in social media than pretensions. It is also important to be consistent in ones engagement with the outside world through the social media platforms.

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