Chef Peter Tseng and restaurateurs Nikesh Lamba and Japtej Ahluwalia of Soy Soi provide an update of what’s cooking
Food trends used to be dictated by chefs in the past years but lately we have seen that diners are now the pivotal game-changers in driving the Indian food service industry. There has been an upsurge of veganism and plant-based protein diet, as well as usage of alternative flour products like banana flour. People are getting conscious of what they eat and at the same time, the impact of its consumption on the environment. Here are some current trends:
The focus has been on health and wellbeing, and food is where it all starts. Thereby we have seen home-grown health food concepts cropping up across all food platforms promoting healthy dining and customised diet food offering like eat.fit, FreshMenu, Food Darzee, and others.
Ancient Grains and Millets
Usage of ancient grains like millets and alternative flour varieties will gain more acceptance and chefs will find innovative ways to create and promote their usage on the menu.
Home Cooked Food
The increasing popularity of home chefs is also making in-roads into mainstream dining out and the food delivery scene with diners steering away from fast food.
Home Grown Farms
Organic and in-season food has been there for years now, but the coming years will see more and more chefs having their own farm in their restaurant backyards or rooftops, and actively participating in the process of farming with local farmers as diners become more concerned about where their food comes from.
Given the current culinary landscape and the talks about wellness, fermented food is featured more on menu and gaining acceptance these days, not limiting to just sauerkraut or kimchi but unfamiliar and exciting products like Burmese tea leaf, kombucha and seasonal veggies, to name a few. Although preserving food using microorganism has been around since the inception of cooking, it was due to the commercialisation of food products that we saw canned and packaged food products, with added commercial preservatives to extend the shelf life of products, making their way into the kitchens.
Ironically, we Indians had always maintained a healthy and balanced diet but due to the onslaught of western lifestyle and rise in fast food, it has taken a toll on the health and wellbeing, and now we are in fact going back to our roots.
The other factor that is driving the food service industry is the impact of consumption on the environment and this has led to plant-based protein movement as opposed to animal-based protein.
There are pros and cons with regards to plant-based protein diets as they are looked down upon as incomplete proteins, lacking in one or more of the nine essential amino acids and not complete proteins. But that opens up to another debate altogether. The point is that animal husbandry is taking a huge toll on our natural resources which is limited and it is the need of the hour to conserve and protect our environment. Here are some eye-opening facts:
According to World Wildlife Fund, water used for livestock production is expected to rise by 50% and at present it accounts for 15% of irrigated water. The water footprint related to animal feed takes the largest share of 99% as compared to 1% of total drinking and service water. As per John Hopkins University, in general the ratio of water use is approximately 7:1 for beef, 5:1 for pork and 2.5:1 for poultry.
Replacements of all animal-based items with plant-based replacement diets can add enough food to feed 350 million additional people and at the same time growing plant-based replacements for each animal category can produce two-fold to 20-fold more nutritionally similar food per unit of cropland. Therefore, there is an opportunity loss of 40-95% across various categories of animal-based products. Up to 21.9% of the world population is considered vegetarian and this is predicted to increase two-fold in the coming decade.
The health benefits of plant-based diet include lower blood pressure, balanced cholesterol level, increase in metabolism, improvement in digestion, and lower BMI. “Today, it is no longer just about tackling hunger. We need to grow better and healthier food in an environmentally conscious manner,” said Ted Tan, Deputy Chief Executive of Enterprise Singapore, at a recently held Future of Food Asia Conference.
Perhaps the idea for a sustainable diet is not a meatless diet but a less-meat one with a strong inclination towards fruits, grains and vegetables. Reducing our reliance on factory-farmed animals can contribute to a low-carbon, sustainable and liveable future. As per Global Data, a leading data and analytic company, there has been a global shift away from meat in recent years and a full 70% of the world population reportedly is either reducing meat consumption or leaving meat off the table altogether.
Zero Waste Cooking
In line with sustainable cooking is another practice that will see most chefs rise up to the challenge – creating root-to-stem menu and inventive dishes that use each of the ingredients in their entirety. About Rs 50,000 crore worth of food produced is wasted every year in the country and the enormity of the situation is growing year by year.
Online and Grocery Platforms
Rapid urbanisation, social media awareness and rise of online food and grocery platforms, which is expected to grow by 45-50%, is all set to expand to middle-tier and lower-tier cities. This will in turn widen the scope for food and beverage service industry as although consumer preference tends towards regional and localised food, the scope of modernising traditional food and providing them at a convenience of time and place will open up huge potential for the food retail.
In the urban sector, there is an upsurge in demand for gourmet food due to growing awareness of new cuisines promoted by cookery shows, food bloggers and food travellers. This gourmet phenomenon is creating a whole new market for exotic food products and is invariably coupled with healthy diet-based food offerings, which now contribute 10-20% of sales across various food retailers.