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Local produce becoming key ingredients in chefs’ kitchens
Friday, 23 September, 2022, 13 : 00 PM [IST]
Chef Dane Fernandes
From heritage grains to Indian Umami, local produce is truly the holy grail of every chef’s kitchen today. In a world where eating seasonal and local (as our forefathers did) is gaining popularity, the idea of using vegetables, herbs and spices to create magic out of what is available has the potential to do its bit towards a sustainable tomorrow. A locally well-stocked kitchen helps cut carbon footprint, reduce waste, minimalise cost and create unique dining experiences.

Demand for local produce has risen significantly over the last few years, owing to changing lifestyle patterns and increasing curiosity amongst people to try newer cuisines. Besides, the growing awareness regarding side effects of synthetic food colour and additives has changed people’s preferences for food ingredients. Chefs and restaurants are now shifting their focus towards using organic locally produced food and grains in their menus.

India’s culinary culture is dynamic and distinct. Every 100 kms, one can experience flavours that are unique to the region. The culinary map of the nation is not only rich but also unique and this is encouraging chefs to explore diverse local ingredients and curate a symbiosis between spices and herbs, which boast of surprising medicinal properties. With two arduous years of Covid 19, immunity has become the new sustainability and healing herbs such as Kombucha, Turmeric, Zinc, Honey etc. are becoming key ingredients for cooking. Educated consumers have converged around the idea of eating locally produced food as they want to taste flavours from their childhood, and the new generation is looking at ecological methods of procuring food.

Chefs are deep diving into the roots of regional food as the country not only boasts of diverse cuisines but is also known to produce great crop, making its way to every kitchen. The recent culinary trend revolves around Shop Locally, Eat Globally; where common ingredients such as chilli, lime and many more are used across meal preparations which are sourced from small villages and states in the country. The affluent consumer wants to explore the nation’s heterogeneity via niche cuisines and benefit from the nature’s bounty. As chefs, we are constantly curating meal experiences from the lesser known culinary rich regions. At JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, we have initiated a series called Gourmet Travelogues where I travel to cities with undiscovered culinary delights and craft a menu featuring ingredients and recipes from these destinations. Chapter 1 of the travelogues was undiscovered flavours of my home city Goa, and Chapter two will be through the undiscovered culinary roads of East India. Taking the motto of source locally a notch higher, we have created an experience called the JW Garden, where we grow some of the most commonly used herbs and ingredients, thereby creating a fresh and organic culinary experience for our guests. Herb gardens are providing chefs with an easy access to fresh home-grown ingredients to elevate every dining experience. Home-grown herbs and local sourcing have its myriad positive cost implications as well. The dining space is seeing reduced logistics costs, lesser availability constraints and fresher produce.

We can all be part of sustainable dining by consuming locally grown and produced foods. Eating local reduces the distance that food travels (food miles) and the emissions produced during transportation, thereby resulting in a smaller carbon footprint or “foodprint”. I personally believe India is a haven for some of the most unique, high quality fresh ingredients – an underestimated market it’s the responsibility of us (chefs and restaurants) to put India back on the map of culinary wonders.

(The author is executive chef At JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar)
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