Chennai’s appetite is changing, and how. The city’s love for its daily platter of idli-sambar now happily coexists with a new-found willingness to try out exotic cuisines, according to food experts who steered an engaging conversation about what made great food on the concluding day of The Hindu Lit For Life 2013 on Sunday.

The proof of the city’s changed attitude to world cuisine came from Pascal Dupuis, general manager, and chef Dharmen Makawana from The Leela Palace, Chennai, who have done what was unthinkable — launch a Japanese sushi section at the deluxe property.

“Chennai is certainly changing,” said the chef. “Traditional tastes co-existing with the urge to try new things,” he said.

Their fellow panellists on the session on ‘Cooking up a storm: The secrets of great food’, were the feisty (and funny in equal measure) duo of Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma who jointly authored ‘Highway On My Plate -The Guide to Indian Roadside Eating’.

Farzana Contractor, Editor of ‘Upper Crust’, who was the moderator, gave them something to chew on. How would one define great food? Was it found on the street-side eateries or the plush star hotel?

Street-side food got an overwhelming vote from the jury. After all India, as Ms. Contractor noted, was a country where millions of people ate out on the streets. And, even star hotels offered street-side cuisines.

On what made great food, Mr. Pascal stated that food was about emotion and good food was all about relating to the cuisines one grew up with, while Rocky Singh made some deep observations about how the reptilian brain determined the human food orientation. Perhaps, not to be outdone, Mayur Sharma came up with a statement just as deep — he quipped that the unique thing about humans was that they were the only species that cooked its own food and told stories about it.

Correction

Journalist-author Jerry Pinto bagged The Hindu Literary Prize for 2012 (and not 2013 as reported in these columns) for his novel ‘Em and the Big Hoom’. He joins the league of writers who won the award before him in Manu Joseph in 2010 for ‘Serious Men’ and Rahul Bhattacharya in 2011 for ‘The Sly Company of People Who Care’.

Sponsors & Partners:

The Hindu Lit for Life is presented by VGN and powered by VIT University.

Associate Sponsors: Shriram Chits

Official Car Partner: Volvo

Bookstore Partner: Landmark

Hospitality Partner: The Leela Palace, Chennai

Event Partner: Aura

Radio Partner: Chennai Live

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