The year 2011 has been a year full of surprises from the concept of chef’s table that welcomed you right into the chef’s kitchen to delicacies livened up with molecular gastronomy there was a lot of culinary excitement for foodies to lap up.
However, the focus inarguably remained on healthy eating. Portions became smaller, yogurt became the new it dessert in its chic avatar, and olive and canola oil got thumbs up from fitness freaks.
Chefs forayed into health food, using organically grown and locally sourced produce. From honey to fruits, egg and meat, chefs laid out entire organic spreads to woo the health buffs. The Farm To Plate concept also clicked as chefs presented the freshest produce hand-picked from hotel’s own farms. Cafes and delis, such as the Cafe at the Hyatt, also sold organic produce.
“The awareness about organic ingredients multiplied. The trend will grow bigger in 2012,” says chef Saby of Olive Bar & Kitchen.
It became simpler to whip up a five-course gourmet meal at home, thanks to the increasing number of gourmet stores in the city. From a clump of flowering chives, cheese such as English cheddar or Italian mozzarella, to cold cuts, herbs, spices and pure salts, everything you needed to cook an exotic meal was available at gourmet stores such as Nature’s Basket, Le Marche, and Spencer’s.
Guests also showed keen interest in gourmet capsule courses run by five star hotels. When the chef shared a fancy recipe, they could relate to it.
Molecular gastronomy stirred the imagination of chefs who whipped up surprises such as lobster ice cream or a mango ravioli that looked like an egg. Chefs used processes such as Sous vide, Cryo and Espuma to create avant-garde dishes.
“It expanded our horizon to provide an emotionally rich experience with food,” says chef Mayank Tiwari of Mobius. Restaurants such as Smoke House Room and Olive Kitchen & Bar presented various molecular gastronomy treats.
Chefs paid focus on presenting their creations with a lot of oomph. Treating their platters like a painter’s canvas, they put together treats that you could eat with your eyes! One saw the use of a lot of edible flowers, herbs, dehydrated olive powder, tomato skin, porcini and microgreens to sex up the looks of their dishes.
“A lot of attention was paid to the art of food plating and sculpting as chefs realised that how food tastes also has a lot to do with how visually appealing it is,” says chef Neeraj Tyagi, executive chef, The Claridges.
From enigmas such as chicken tikka dosas, we shifted to sophisticated fusion. “From fusion of basics, we moved to fusion of specialties to create elegant fusion,” says chef Devraj Halder, who introduced green tea tiramisu and red pumpkin custard canoli at Sampan, the Suryaa.
Chef Rakesh Talwar, F Bar & Lounge says that increased culinary exchanges in 2011 paved way for more fusion. “It will get bigger, but subtlety will remain the key,” he says.
Food for learning
Chefs stretched our culinary vocabulary with lesser-explored cuisine such as Brazilian, Vietnamese, and Malagasy. The presence of expat chefs brought the world to your platter. Chefs such as Argentinian chef Maria Julia Martini at Hyatt, Vietnamese chef Hana at Taj Palace, and Sicilian Chef Fillipo Giunta at the Oberoi, New Delhi, assured to offer an authentic fare.
Top chefs opened the doors to their kitchens with the concept of the chef’s table. Guests were invited inside the kitchen to get a glimpse of the kitchen frenzy along with a doze of cooking secrets, and hands-on culinary experience.
Restaurants such at Baluchi at the Lalit, Masala Art at the Taj Palace and Chef’s Bench at Zanotta, The Leela Kempinski Gurgaon, invited guests to experience a chef’s table and helped them master exotic dishes that they had so far only tried in hotels.
Tea came a long way from being a humble pastime beverage to an exotic drink. Green, chamomile, and jasmine tea and tea fermented with fruits and herbs became popular among health junkies.
“Awareness about the health benefits of tea and the desire to try new variants made it very popular. Tea ceremonies and tea pairings with food gained popularity besides innovative blend,” says tea sommelier Radhika Batra of Teacup India.
Experts’ pick of 2011 food trends
Chef Dirkholscher, Hyatt Regency
Guest showed strong interest in organic produce. That led to introducing organic ingredients at the Cafe. We’ll see a number of delis and cafes selling organic ingredient.
Chef NeerajTyagi, The Claridges
A lot of effort went into enhancing the looks of food to make it visually as appealing as its taste. Herbs, micro greens, edible flower and sugar art was extensively used.
Chef K.P. Singh, The Lalit
Interactions between guests and chefs increased. Guests were treated to exclusive concepts such as chef’s bench that invited them to cook along with the chef.
Chef Devrajhalder, The Suryaa
Fusion was given a sophisticated spin in 2011. We did away with complicated fusion and focused on fusion of specialities. Fusion is here to stay in its subtler avatar.
Radhika Batra, Tea Sommelier
Tea culture evolved majorly in 2011. Awareness about the health benefits of tea and the desire to try new variants made it very popular.