Lifestyle & Living

Tasting India: Humble Plate to Global Food Industry Giant

A Farm to Table one-of-a-kind global symposium on the country's culinary tourism potential and sustainable food culture begins in Delhi. The symposium from Dec 13-15 will also initiate a dialogue on putting India on UNESCO's Intangible Heritage List and adopt a Smart Food Manisfesto. Better watch out waistline, as I experience a journey of tasting India as never before. Ethel Da Costa reports

It is true, that the way to my heart is through my stomach. And so will I be here invited to experience India’s Culinary Revolution of food and its creators from Dec 13-15.


BTW, did you know that the Indian food industry — which is currently valued at $39.71 billion (Rs 2,476.8 billion) — is said to grow at the rate of 11 per cent annually to reach $65.4 billion (about Rs 4 lakh crore) by 2018, according to a joint report by IIM-Calcutta and Academic Foundation. “Food and grocery constitute a substantial part of India’s consumption accounting for around 31 per cent of the consumption basket,” adds the report. In contrast, consumers in other countries spend a much lower proportion of their income on food and grocery. While US spends 9 per cent, Brazil and China spend 17 per cent and 25 per cent respectively on food and grocery, the report further said.

Food contributes as one of the largest segment in Indian retail sector which was valued at $490 billion in 2013. “India’s retail market is expected to grow to $865 billion by 2023, which is presently valued at $490 billion,” the report states. With the share of modern retail expected to rise to 24 per cent of the total retail market from 8 per cent currently. The report also suggests that India may have benefited from the presence of foreign businesses in the food supply chain. Besides creating employment, investment in food manufacturing and backward linkages with farmers have contributed substantially to government revenues, the report states.


Now that I know, so looking forward to experience Tasting India: Farm to Table on December 13 with its second edition and a roster of stellar speakers who will take a 360-degree, inter-disciplinary view of food, mapping its journey from the farm to your table, and the challenges at every stage.

The Symposium opens on December 13 with the media launch of a national food donation initiative flagged off nationally by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Save Food, Share Food, Spread Joy‘ is the tagline of the Indian Food Sharing Alliance, jointly launched by the FSSAI CEO, Pawan Kumar Agarwal, Kolkata Knight Riders Captain Gautam Gambhir, who is closely associated with food donation, and President of the National Association of Street Vendors of India, Arbind Singh.

The event to be held at the Roseate House, New Delhi Aerocity, will also witness the national premiere of Anthony Bourdain‘s documentary on food waste, Wasted, ending with a high tea consisting of snacks made with parts of vegetable and fruit that we tend to discard. In hotels and restaurants, 30 per cent of vegetables and fruits are discarded because they are considered not fit to be served.


On December 14-15, at the India International Centre, the Symposium will open with a discussion on India’s culinary tourism potential featuring the Global First Lady of Indian Cuisine, Madhur Jaffrey, and the Director General of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism, Satyajeet Rajan. Concluding the day’s session on Sustainable Business Models for a Sustainable Food Culture will be presided over by Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog.

Other headline speakers include Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, who will chair a session on Strategic Innovations and Market Interventions in Organic Agriculture. Dr Pushpesh Pant, culinary historian, TV presenter and Padma Shri awardee, will lead the discussion on Indian Cuisine finding a place on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage List.

Karnataka’s Agriculture Minister, Krishna Byre Gowda, will inaugurate a lunch prepared entirely with millets and then preside over a discussion on the way forward for ‘nutri cereals’ across the country. The highlight of the discussion will be the presentation of a white paper on millets by Shauravi Malik and Meghana Narayan of Slurrp Farm, a start-up specialising in innovative value-added millet products, from breakfast cereals to dosa and pancake mixes.

Other noted speakers include: ICCR Director General Riva Ganguli Das; former high commissioner in the U.K., Shiv Shankar Mukherjee; Kairali’s Managing Director, Gita Ramesh; brand strategist and TV commentator Sunil Alagh; hoteliers Priya Paul and Diwan Gautam Anand; restaurateurs AD Singh and Zorawar Kalra; scholars Bina Aggarwal, Shylashri Shankar and Ishita Dey; corporate food czars Jaspal Sabharwal and K.S. Narayanan; noted bloggers Kalyan Karmakar (‘Finely Chopped’), Rushina M. Ghildiyal, Mohit Balachandran (‘Chowder Singh’) and Sangeeta Khanna; and the culinary world’s leaders, Chef Manjit Gill, Bill Marchetti and Manisha Bhasin.

The roster of speakers also includes farmers from Rajasthan, Punjab (including the country’s biggest potato farmer, Jang Bahadur Singh Sangha), Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Karnataka. They will also gather together on December 16 at the Vedatya Institute, the country’s only hotel management institute to be situated in an organic farm in Sohna, Haryana, where they will discuss matters of concern to the agricultural community.


As you’d expect from a food symposium, Tasting India: Farm to Table will have its share of by-invitation-only gala lunches and dinners as well. On December 13, Dr Pushpesh Pant and Executive Chef Nishant Choubey are curating a `Tables of India’ lunch at the organic farm of the Roseate Hotels & Resorts in Rajokri; on December 14, the DLF Golf and Country Club will host a culinary evening with Madhur Jaffrey; and then on December 15, at The Park Hotel New Delhi, where Executive Chef Abhishek Basu will put together an earth-friendly menu designed in the spirit of the Smart Food Manifesto, and which will be adopted and circulated for signatures earlier in the evening.

Says Sanjoo Malhotra, Stockholm-based #MakeInIndia promoter, and co-founder, Tasting India: Farm to Table: “The Symposium seeks to engage opinion-makers in the country and around the world to shift their lens on India’s opulent gastronomical heritage, its potential to emerge as a culinary tourism showcase for the world, and its vast wealth of wisdom relevant to the current global debate on sustainable lifestyles.”

Adds Sourish Bhattacharyya, noted food journalist and blogger, and co-founder, Tasting India: Farm to Table: “Our emphasis is not so much on the act of eating food as in the blood, sweat and toil that goes into making it. I can assure you that you’ll just love partaking of it.”

The idea behind Tasting India: Farm to Table is to empower Indian gastronomy and to pursue the mission to:

  • Generate widespread, informed awareness of India’s rich and diverse gastronomy to make it a leading global food destination.
  • Provide a platform for innovative young chefs and food entrepreneurs to interact, share information and grow commercially.
  • Showcase and revive India’s ‘Lost Foods.’
  • Promote sustainability in the entire food chain – from Farm to Table, and beyond.
  • Foster understanding of Ayurveda’s contribution to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Set in motion a certification process to guarantee the safety and authenticity of Indian foods in India and across the world.

Tasting India: Farm to Table is supported by Incredible India (Ministry of Tourism), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and ICRISAT, apart from a slew of trade bodies and leading businesses, such as DLF5, Roseate Hotels and Resorts, and The Park New Delhi.

Data  inputs: Franchise India

Ethel da Costa
Fashion & Lifestyle Journalist, Founder-CEO, Think Geek Media

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