HTLS 2020: Michelin star chefs Gaggan Anand, Massimo Bottura share how food eating will change in a post-Covid world
When one found it difficult to even cook eggs, Covid-19 pandemic made sure that it came with game changing skill which saw people baking their own bread in their kitchens amid the coronavirus lockdown and highlighting the same, Michelin star chefs Gaggan Anand and Massimo Bottura asserted at the 18th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit about how it has increased the value of their profession while promoting culture. Answering Indian chef, restaurateur and author Ritu Dalmia’s question on how the pandemic has affected his journey, Gaggan revealed, “It’s a perfect break for chefs like us who were always on a plane and away from the restaurants. The chefs will rediscover themselves during the pandemic. In India, this is not considered among the top professions but now as Covid-19 made people turn to their kitchens and start making bread, hopefully our profession gets its due recognition.”
Speaking at the 18th edition of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit and talking about the hit on food business especially on fine dining, Gaggan said that he regrets closing a restaurant followed by Covid-19 when “everything fell apart.” The Thailand-based Indian chef, “Luckily in Thailand we managed to be non-Covid as social distancing was not applicable to our society and we continued with fine dining.” Since people no longer have the time to travel and finances to spurge on luxury eating, Covid-19 became the biggest threat to fine dining and Gaggan shared how chefs who passed out with him in 1997 and 2000 are currently sitting jobless.
Italian restaurateur and Michelin star chef himself, Massimo Bottura humbly accepted praises as Ritu gushed about how he started out with canteens and later bought Italy on the map with regards to food sustainability and awareness. During the lockdown, with his family under one roof, Massimo decided to share their life with the outside world through Instagram but without filter.
Talking about the essence of food and how it is his foundation, Massimo asserted how to distribute food to those who need it most and the purpose of a restaurant in 21st century. “I thought of my restaurant as a laboratory of ideas, a place to learn and grow, to keep ourselves from isolating in our kitchen. Restaurant do not exist only to serve a meal but to start a culinary revolution – one that is leading chefs to step out of the kitchen and connect with communities in the world through hospitality.”
Massimo said that a chef can be the one who influences agriculture, culture tourism, training and social issues and has the enormous potential. Having spent 35 years in the business, Massimo said that restaurants in 2020 have a sense of responsibility. Elaborating on the work by his non-profit organization – Food for Soul, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Massimo revealed, “We promote culture, develop knowledge and promote social responsibility under the eyes of everyone. We have almost 11 kitchen feeding more than 500 meals every day preparing approximately 8000 meals a day.”
He added, “In our society the grandmother, the old ladies, the specially-abled kids make tortellini and sell it to people who don’t have time to cook tortellini. It is a culture of giving.”
Gaggan then shared how food eating is going to change in the post-Covid world. He said that the need to the hour was to wake up, redefine tourism and luxury and go towards sustainable goals. “The problem with third world countries is that preserving our culture and food is diluted. “In India, it’s sad to see that we give more preference to Chinese food. It’s time to rediscover our food, our culture. It’s time to redefine tourism, food, travel. It’s a big challenge to all in the industry,” Gaggan said.
Asking chefs to rethink about food and rethink about how we cook, Gaggan added, “Cooking is the most human thing. The animals and us, the only difference is that we cook. Everybody eats. We eat to have peace in our life. Animals eat in aggression, a banana or a meat.”
Elaborating on the lines of culture and saying that “it is not a storage place that we have in mind”, Massimo called for a revolution to end food waste. “Better food education begins with our children – appreciate food, value it, encourage food systems that distribute food to those who need it most, re-educate people and teach them to have respect for people who cook and pay respect to ingredients” stressed the three-Michelin-star-awarded chef. Asking to make these ethical choices a part of our daily lives, Massimo said that the need of the hour was to invite ethical and healthy food making processes that minimize on wastage. He concluded, “To change quickly, simplify things instead of complicating it. Take small steps like I did in kitchen quarantine. Food For Soul is a cultural project and not a charity project.”
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