The global accent of Indian gastronomy


As Mumbai based Michael Swamy is the only chef to represent India at India Fest 2016, Florida, in conversation, he shares the experience and finds out why the Indian food is yet to flatter the global platter

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Chef Michael Swamy cooking at the India Fest 2016, Florida

While glocalisation has become the essence of our modern culture in various avenues, needless to say that our gastronomy is no different. So, getting an invitation from Ankur Patel, the president of Palm Beach India Association for a cook off on an international occasion like India Fest 2016, that recently took place in Florida was more than a moment of pride for renowned chef/author and food stylish Micheal Swamy. “You know what happens when you are invited to do a cook off in a far off land and in a strange kitchen and with people one hasn’t even met. Your brain starts moving like a chugging train!” shared Swamy who was the only chef to represent India (as HoppingChef, one of the new food experiences to foodies) to the global food connoisseur. The festival, which was attended by many Indian from the various parts of America was a eye-opener for Swamy to understand the existence of Indian food on global map.

Nilgiri Chicken
Nilgiri Chicken

The new age food and its plating

Once landed in Florida, Swamy attended a charity dinner hosted for some of the wealthiest of Palm Beach at a fine dining French Restaurant called Le Rendezvous. As he dished out Nilgiri Chicken, Kasundi prawns and a Green salad which is unique as everything on the plate will be of different shades of  green; attempted to focus on new age cooking style along with a fine plating. Sharing his experience, the chef said, “The new age food that I was cooking highlighted Indian food, they (American guests) had never seen it before. The toning down of the spices, the play on new ingredients and flavours, the process of not drowning the food in curries and sauces to the fine dine French style plating- it was all new for them!”

spice_red_chilli
Indian red chilli

The stereotype and misconception

One of the reason of getting surprised be experiencing new age Indian food was the existing stereotype about our cuisine in international mind. No matter how much we are talking about ‘going global with our gastronomy’; the gap is yet to be bridged. Intensifying the problem, Swamy said, “Many people especially youngsters had misconceptions that Indian cuisine was full of chilli and spice and this is due to the restaurants in America serving just that. The menus of the Indian restaurants are so outdated and lack luster that it is no wonder that Indian cuisine is not yet global.”

butterchicken
Butter Chicken

The unexplored side…

It is good to observe how butter chicken, chicken tikka, naans and rotis have become the synonyms of Indian cuisine on the global platter but the culinary of a diverse country like India has much more to offer than that to its global citizen. While every regions of our country has its own history and culture of food to offer, it has been over shadowed by the North Indian cuisine. And that is the big reason of worries. According to  Swamy, “The finer aspects of Indian cuisine have been neglected. It needs an upleapment by way of changing the palate notes of the cuisine and changing the way we plate and present food. I am glad that chefs like Atul Kocchar and Manish Mehrotra have made strides to presenting Indian cuisine on a global platform.”

A snap from the book The East Indian Kitchen
A snap from the book The East Indian Kitchen

Bridging  the gap…

An initiative like India Fest 2016 at Palm Beach is one of the endeavours to put back Indian cuisine on a global scale. While Swamy’s association with the festival and various activities like workshops, travelling the depths of India to pull out hidden treasures are keeping the attempt of bridging the gap alive, he has a suggestion to universalize Indian food. He said, “We need to create a dedicated YouTube culinary channel for Indian food that aims at educating the masses on the subject. A channel, that goes beyond just showcasing a chef cooking a recipe and also talks about the food history of our country.” Perhaps this is the best way to celebrate the quiddit of gastronomy, that once told by James Beard, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”

 

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