Owing to the pandemic, food consumption has become a cautious habit and people are highly conscious of what they are eating and where it is coming from.
“It has given us an opportunity to explore ways to keep food simple, nutritious and how it can be transported safely from one place to the other with limited human handling,” says Chef Prabhakar Nagaraj, Managing Partner, Elior India.
We spoke to the veteran to know about the changes being seen in kitchens in terms of safety measures, ingredients, collaborative dishes and waste management.
Food safety measures taken by chefs in the kitchen
This pandemic has taken away the exoticism of food from the menu. The masses have switched to basic meals, keeping away from complexity in its preparation and the ingredients used. Food consumption has become a cautious habit and people are highly conscious of what they are eating and where it is coming from. To serve this need, we have switched to pre-packed meals with limited variety as compared to the lavish buffet spreads during the pre-Covid times. We assume that this is going to be short lived. Although this step has restricted the inclusion of the number of dishes served during every meal, safety measures are in place as this step reduces the number of human touch-points.
Food is safe when it is handled by as few people as possible and cooked close to the hour of consumption. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to explore ways to keep food simple, nutritious and how it can be transported safely from one place to the other with limited human handling. We can also use flash-cooking methods. Flash cooking involves cooking ingredients on a very high flame so that the outer surface of the ingredient gets sealed, eliminating any loss of internal juices and thus sustaining the nutritive aspects of the ingredients.
Growing importance of Indian spices in the kitchen in the times of pandemic
We are creating menus that are primarily based on local produce rather than being sourced from other states or the country at large. In the near future, we will witness many international dishes being given an Indian twist and vice versa. Our chefs are handpicked from the best hotels and we are able to translate global food trends to our cafe food with ease.
The food which is delivered is as per the requirement of the clients; even though they may all be from the same geography; they still have completely different requirements from each other. For example, consider Vegetable Au Gratin, a famous western dish where you mix vegetables with cream sauce, grate cheese and bake it in the oven. Here we have substituted cream sauce with Makhani sauce which is typically creamy and slightly sweet. You mix it to the right consistency, add grated cheese and paneer on top and gratinate it. This dish acts as Au Gratin but it actually is Veg Makhani. However, the presentation becomes completely different.
As Indians, we like to bite into food that tastes Indian but looks very Western. For example, if you bite into an apple pie, it may not just have apple inside; instead it may have Anjeer Badam Halwa. These are some of the innovations that can be brought into corporate cafe especially when there is a growing importance to match the taste buds of consumers in India.
The cooking process stays the same, but you need to start mapping ingredients accordingly. Once you use Anjeer Badam Halwa as a substitute ingredient for a pie filling, it should have good consistency, so that the dough doesn’t become soggy. Otherwise, the whole purpose of using different ingredients gets defeated. From an outsider’s perspective, it is just a pie until you bite into it to relish the Anjeer halwa. Indian foods can be very nutritive, though it all depends on the way you cook it.
Increase in collaborative cuisine to dish out magic on plates
Regarding collaborative cuisines, the type of clients that we cater to need us to be at our innovative best. Their profiles create an opportunity to explore the possibility to innovate, which is what differentiates us from our competitors.
The financial luxury of these clients gives us an advantage to continuously innovate and be ahead of our time when we talk about mundane menus with typical components that we hardly ever think of changing. Our chef-led model acts as an enhancer to explore any opportunity to satisfy hungry tummies.
At the same time, when we stand as a premium catering provider, we look forward to bringing a change rather than the usual food. For example, a regular Aloo Mutter Samosa can be changed into a chicken Fajita Samosa. Basically, you are using chicken which is mixed with Fajita seasoning and flavor the dough with cumin giving a Mexican twist to the Indian cuisine.
You can have a samosa of this nature, but instead of using mint chutney or Tamarind chutney, you can substitute it with Salsa. This is something which we have innovated and is the differentiating factor that we bring to the platter when it comes to cafeteria services. It is a requirement at this point in time because when you present your menu to a corporate crowd who are well travelled, they don’t want to have the same rice, dal and chapati. They look for something different and wish to explore new cuisines.
Waste management in kitchens
This process is being mapped with our ERP (Enterprise resource planning). Whatever the food requirement for any client-site is, it comes to the ERP. Based on this, the production process is initiated, and the dispensation takes place. This is then tracked basis the sales on the site and if there is a huge difference in expected versus delivered outcomes, the on-site head is responsible for it.
By doing this, we have witnessed a tremendous reduction in food-wastage and this is something we follow as a process where ensuring minimal food wastage is concerned. This drives complete information about the quantity of production that should take place and the raw materials that need to be used in order to fulfill production. Then, requisition happens based on the raw materials where the purchase happens accordingly. So the complete end-to-end process is tightened.