New Delhi– Chefs across the globe, including India, are taking creative inspiration from their own culinary traditions and local ingredients, says US-based chef Christopher Koetke.
“I think that the biggest evolution that I have seen internationally is that chefs today look to their own culture with their own culinary traditions and local ingredients for creative inspiration,” Koetke, who is also the Vice President, Strategy and Industry Relations at Kendall College in Chicago (USA), told IANS in an email interview.
Sharing his own experience of how he started, he said: “So like many others, I travelled and worked in other famous food countries. While this was a great experience and I learned so much, it did nothing to validate my culinary heritage and traditions.”
“Please understand that I am in favour of young cooks travelling and learning as much as possible from other countries. But they also need to understand that they have great food where they live, and it is their culture.”
What he sees today is that there are “many younger chefs who are looking at their own locales and from this generating really creative and fascinating dishes”.
The overall result, he says, is an explosion in locally grown creativity in many countries. “I see the same happening in India,” he added.
“India has a great cuisine or rather cuisines that are so regional/local. Translated, there is so much to work with here in India and there is such a strong appreciation for food and many strong food traditions. It is a pretty magical place to eat.”
A certified executive chef and culinary educator by the American Culinary Federation, Koetke also served on the education committee of the World Association of Chefs’ Societies. He also served for 10 years on the American Culinary Federation Foundation (ACFEF) Accrediting Commission.
In 2010, he received the inaugural Award for Excellence in Culinary Education from the Foodservice Educators Network International (FENI) and, in 2016, he received the World Chefs’ Education award.
Talking about the evolution of the Indian food and beverage industry, he said that even “younger Indian chefs really want to create their own artistic cuisine with Indian roots and perhaps some other international influences”.
“Nothing will hold them back. I hear it when I talk to Indian culinary students and I see it in their eyes. What I see for India is that there is so much potential culinarily and so much untapped potential.
“Clearly, there will always be a place for the great traditional foods of this diverse country, but there will be a growing presence of highly creative food made by Indian chefs,” he said.
He says that when it comes to trends in the Indian market, there is burgeoning interest by young people to pursue the profession of a chef.
“I think that the view of what a chef is, is also changing. Thus, it is a move that I have seen in other countries as well as people see chefs as real professionals with all the subsequent respect that they deserve,” said Koetke.
The expert feels that he has also seen some really top-notch food safety practices in many hotel kitchens in India.
“The key to food safety and making sure that your guests are served safe food is education. Most often when there are food safety issues, it stems from people simply not understanding the biology and chemistry behind their actions. Education, education, education.
“As to sustainability, India is making progress, but like every country there is always more to do. Sustainability is a massive problem that is global in scope and thus requires a global solution,” he said.