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Guardians of the gardens

While MNC’s in the hospitality sector rely mainly on imported mass produce, here are a few cafés in the city who have chosen the organic way by sourcing local produce or growing it in their own in-house farm

more lifestyle Updated: Dec 04, 2017 18:43 IST
Ruella Fernandes
Ruella Fernandes
Organic Food,Local Produce,Local Farmers
The Naga Ghost Pepper Wings at Bombay Brasserie

The queen of cereals, maize was recently in news, as it was reported that Mexicans are concerned that corn grown in the US is threatening the rich and varied Mexican crop heritage. While this issue is pertaining to a nation in another continent, it is a global nuisance that is digging its nails into countries across the globe, upping the risk of
endangering indigenous crops and produce. An influx in the import of foreign produce due to growing demands is one of the reasons that could have triggered this situation. “With the increase in demand of foreign ingredients, the
indigenous ones have taken a hit, which is a shame because there are so many unexplored possibilities,” says Shikha Nath, director at Bombay Brasserie, Worli. Although this is a growing phenomenon, there are a few who
are pioneers at safeguarding and augmenting the consumption of local produce. Manashwi Gupta, chef at The

Benedict, is of the opinion that supporting local farmers is beneficial for the buyers as well. “Being in the F&B industry, I think it’s not only your duty but common sense to support local farmers. They are always willing to
work hard to get you what you and it is always easy to guide and direct them,” says Gupta.

“Organic and artisanal products have increased tremendously over the last six years, both in terms of variety and quality,” says Jérémie Sabbagh, the head chef at Kitchen Garden, Bandra (W). He strongly believes that “using these products instead of imported ones is socially virtuous” as it helps support more farmers and they see it as a “reward for their hard work and dedication”.

Hussain Shahzad, sous chef at The Bombay Canteen, Lower Parel opines, “We are now in that space in the gastronomic world where chefs are returning to embrace their roots of cooking.”

From opting to have an in-house farm where majority of the ingredients used is grown to sourcing produce that is grown locally through tie ups with farmers and fishermen, there are a few entrepreneurs who are contributing towards boosting local produce.

Bombay Brasserie
Bombay Brasserie, Worli, has tie ups with local farmers of specific regions across the country and source ingredients from them. Nath is of the opinion that “farmers get a boost and are encouraged to continue farming” when people source their products. They use exotic ingredients, which they source from specific regions across the country such as kudampuli from Kerala; bhoot jholokia (ghost pepper) from Nagaland for their dish Naga Ghost Pepper Wings; mathaniya Jodhpur chillis from Jodhpur, Rajasthan, for their dish, Rajasthani Dhungar Maas; and gongura leaves from Andhra Pradesh for the dish, Gongura Mutton Pickle Fry.

The vertical garden at Candy and Green

Candy and Green
This cafe in Breach Candy, boasts of a rooftop garden where they produce their own herbs and ingredients. Vertical gardens are the new fad, and given the space constrictions in our city, it seems like the best thing. “We have limited growing capacity because of which we only grow greens that are in season and grows in short time,” says Shraddha Bhansali, founder, Candy and Green. From green produce of summers such as lemongrass, chilli, kafir lime leaves and edible flowers, to winter herbs and green leafy vegetables such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, fenugreek and spinach, all are grown in-house here. They source their other ingredients from local vendors with the belief that it will increase employment for them.

Mockingbird Cafe Bar
The co-owner of Mockingbird Cafe Bar, Churchgate, Deepak Purohit sources black rice from local farmers in Assam because he feels “it’s a unique ingredient and the state has the best quality of it”. He adds, “I came across it when a friend travelled to Assam. We source it from an agency that helps small farmers across the country.”

Multigrain Khichdi at The Bombay Canteen

The Bombay Canteen
The chef at The Bombay Canteen, Lower Parel, believes that sourcing locally helps to keep the costs low and even the quality is better. “Locally sourced or grown ingredients usually taste better because that particular terroir (the soil, the climate and the conditions) is best suited for growing that produce,” says Thomas Zacharias, chef and partner, The Bombay Canteen.

Trio of Beetroot salad at Olive Bar and Kitchen

Olive Bar & Kitchen
This Bandra eatery has gone extra mile as he sources honey from Meghalaya, heirloom tomatoes from local farmers in Nashik, Maharashtra, and seafood from local suppliers (soft shell crabs from Bangalore, prawns from Odisha, sea bass from Ratnagiri, and much more). Rishim Sachdeva, the chef at Olive says, “We source directly from farmers and practice fair pay habits. Financial reward and positive recognition in turn motivates farmers to grow ethically.”

The Grain Story available at The Benedict

Benedict Bistro & Bar
At this eatery only less than 2% of their ingredients are not locally sourced. The Benedict Bistro & Bar, Bandra (W), is an eatery where almost everything is either locally sourced or grown in-house. “The reason behind sourcing locally cultivated ingredients is to get maximum fresh ingredients. Frozen or imported ingredients involve transportation and temperature control procedures, which affect their nutrition values and increases the cost too,” says Gupta.

Prawns served with microgreens at Kitchen Garden by Suzette

Kitchen Garden by Suzette
It is an organic café that sources its produce from Offerings Farms & Natural Foods Pvt. Ltd. Apart from having 80% to 85% of the ingredients in their menu either grown in-house or sourced locally, the eatery sources its coffee from Blue Tokai. “They are much better and fresh than the imported coffees available in the market,” says Sabbagh.

Radisson Blu Resort & Spa
This resort uses vegetables that are sourced from local markets in Karjat, Maharashtra. They particularly source karanda — a berry-size fruit, mainly used in pickles, jams and savoury dishes, and a rice variant called ambemohar from Shirshe and Khandpe villages, located in Karjat.“Our purchases generate local business, and we also farmers good price for their yield,” says Madhusudan Singh, executive chef at the resort.

Whisky-flamed scallops at Slink and Bardot where the seafood is sourced from local fishermen

Slink and Bardot
This eatery in Worli, sources almost all of their ingredients locally. The fish that is used in their dishes such as grubber, sea bass, scallops, snapper and others are sourced from local vendors. The chef, Alexis Gielbaum feels, “With the steady improvement in both the diversity and quality of ingredients produced domestically, I have no doubt that in the next five to 10 years, we would be able to have a menu produced with 100% local produce.”

Aloe vera grown in JW Cafe’s inhouse garden

JW Café, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar

Another place that follows this ideology is the JW Café . “We encourage the farm-to-table concept that aligns with our core philosophy of offering fresh food. Our locally grown produce helps us bolster this school of thought,” says Rohit Joshi, the chef at the café.

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First Published: Dec 04, 2017 18:43 IST