Lost recipes and sustainability at Jaipur’s Gourmet Getaway

Though fresh into its third edition and gradual in its footfall, Jaipur’s annual Gourmet Getaway has its priorities straight

They were chefs, entrepreneurs, bakers and bartenders. They had travelled from Auroville and Goa, Dehradun and Delhi, Jaipur and Tuscany. They learnt some and taught some, through wine tastings and whisky tastings, masterclasses and workshops, book launches and sit-down lunches. But one evening, they all gathered to hear the giants of their industry talk about their work and its relationship with the planet.


We waste nothing
  • At the sunny, glass-topped Café White Sage in Jaipur, Delhi-based chef Vanshika Bhatia struck a different chord than most, at her session on Day Two, talking about peels, scraps and leftovers before a crowd that hitherto had been exposed to gourmet coffees and Tuscan wines.
  • Bhatia, who has already garnered a reputation for herself through her zero-waste kitchen in the national capital, put the focus on how every part of a plant, from rinds to leaves to stem, can be used in a kitchen.
  • A number of things she did took her audience by surprise. Some of them were intriguing creations, like pickled leaves and condensed buttermilk. Others were habits and practices, like going through the contents of the dustbin to give diners an idea of wastage.

On Day Three of the five-day Gourmet Getaway in Jaipur, a smattering of food makers from around the country took a break from dinners and masterclasses to sit back, listen and question as chef and president of the Indian Federation of Culinary Associations Manjit Singh Gill, chef and World Chefs Without Borders ambassador Sudhir Sibal, food entrepreneur Rishi Agarwal, and ITC Rajputana executive chef Parul Kapoor hashed out the challenges of food wastage, sustainability, and quality maintenance.

The conversation, moderated by Ashish Chopra and dominated by Gill, was unsurprisingly focussed on the need to eat local and seasonal. While the onus for designing such menus was placed on chefs — “and FnB managers have the responsibility of being in touch with food producers, like farmers and fishermen,” said Sibal — Gill placed the onus of food wastage squarely on diners themselves.

“How can we waste food?” the chef demanded, both on the dais and in an exclusive chat with MetroPlus later, “Why would a five-star restaurant, or a roadside stall, want to throw away what makes their business? Kitchens treat each single potato as currency, as a five-rupee note.” The math, from star properties to street food, is very systematic, he stresses — “Food cost is budgeted; it is calculated every day. It is the nuts and bolts of the business.”

Lost recipes and sustainability at Jaipur’s Gourmet Getaway

In the same vein, he explains, buying local and seasonal also makes economic sense to any food business. It is simply more cheap. But when guests demand watermelon juice in winters and cauliflower dishes in summers, when they want caterers to serve scores of dishes in “unlimited” portions for the sake of grandeur at weddings, or pile up plates with more than what they can eat at buffets, there is little that any kitchen can do to avoid wastage.

The point of seasonality brought the conversation around to biocompatibility — how compatible the components of our food are with our systems and with living tissue. This was a point stressed by Agarwal, whose Cuttack-based Ayusla Café focusses on Vedic food philosophies. “There are essentially two priorities when it comes to food: nutrition and biocompatibility. Taste comes later,” he stated. Biocompatibility depends not only on absence of chemicals in food, but also on the time of the year. As Gill explained, “After the first monsoon showers, melons should be done away with. That is when the worms start creeping in, when you start needing fertilisers.”

Served in dessert jars
  • The 10-month-old, plastic-free Akh Bar on the roof of Jaipur’s Sarovar Premiere is all blue, gold, black and white. Sleek in the industrial style, it gives off that cosy, easy evening drink vibe even at 5.30 pm, when sunlight still filters in. At the 75 foot-long bar counter (touted to be the longest in Rajasthan) stands mixologist Virendra Singh.
  • Singh’s job for the evening is to teach attendees — including chefs, guests, and enthusiasts who have bought passes to attend the session — the basics of mixology and demonstrate a few of his signature drinks. On the counter are lined a number of ingredients, from the usual suspects like oranges and lime to a bright green homemade cucumber syrup, coriander powder, an empty beer can, and brightly coloured little clay pots and jars that resemble the ones found at the myriad local street stalls.
  • The used and washed beer can is what he used to serve his signature Summer Breeze, a cocktail made of not just gin and tonic water, but also homemade cucumber syrup, fragrant basil syrup, and a number of ingredients that we will refrain from revealing.
  • The other curious containers are for his other drinks, which include a good mix of quality alcohol, natural bitters and the kind of powders one would expect to see in kitchen cabinets instead of bar counters. Each of his drinks, however, hits the spot. “Jaipur sees a mixed crowd, from foreigners who really know their alcohol to new drinkers who are looking to experiment. My job is to teach them all,” he smiles.

Chef Parul Kapoor highlighted ways in which restaurants can still make use of leftover food — such as treat them to turn into manure — but the general observation was that methods like these end up costing much more than a simple, conscious avoidance of wastage. The onus, in conclusion, is on us and how we eat.

Nizam’s favourites in Jaipur

For Fairmont Jaipur’s chefs Sahil Sharma and Prasad Metrani, exploration trips are par for the course. “The Fairmont team from all across India gets together every year to survey three parts of the country. We visit our team members’ hometowns, talk to their friends, look for family recipes...” The idea is to look for foods that have been lost or forgotten by the mainstream.

This tied in perfectly with Gourmet Getaway 2019’s theme of lost recipes. So, diners — in Fairmont’s sweeping, pink stone dining hall surrounded by arches and topped with giant brass lamps — were served the results of last year’s survey as the final offerings of the festival.

One of the appetisers was tootak, that the team discovered last year in Hyderabad, during their attempt to understand the distinctions between Awadhi and Hyderabadi cuisine. The baked dish comprised semolina and khoya dough balls, pepper, cheese, saffron and rose water.

Another Hyderabadi dish the team served was a delicate, ever-evolving Nargil shorba. “Shorbas are generally broths made of coconut, chilli and coriander,” explained Metrani. In this case, however, the shorba was poured over a bowl that already contained coconut foam (yes, just foam), a parmesan crisp and tempered pea shoots, all of which melted into the spoonfuls of shorba at their different paces, thus ensuring that the dish changed taste minute by minute.

(The writer was in Jaipur at the invitation of Gourmet Getaway.)

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 1, 2020 2:35:45 AM |

Next Story