In an e-mail interview with Sanjay Agrawal, Founder, Partner and Executive chef at Salad Chef, he talked about the significance of incorporating seasonal produce to the menus in order to make it more sustainable and suitable for the environment.
Restaurant India: According to you what are the cuisines that are in trend now?
Chef: Foreign cuisines like eastern, Japanese and Malaysian are in trend because people are travelling. They are travelling for various reasons whether it is business or leisure. The other thing that is in trend now is modern cuisine. It means sometimes it is fusion or the way it has been presented on the table. No-a-days I see people plating Indian cuisine in an international way.
Restaurant India: It’s interesting that I was talking to various chefs and they agreed on the fact that regional cuisine is in trend now. However, we also see a lot of regional cuisines being ignored? Why?
Chef: No I don’t think it is not being ignored. Previously, the communication was very low and there were no media but now everyone knows about everything through the internet. People are now travelling and coming across various cuisines. For example: people from Assam are opening their restaurants in metro cities. Firstly, it is bringing them money and secondly they do not feel homesick. Even if they are not earning much, they are doing it for passion. People from across the country are coming to metro cities to find work and even IT and marketing people have started restaurants because they find that this can do well now. Because of this reason the cuisines have mingled. I believe going forward we will soon see Indian cuisine as a consolidated version of different cuisines that this country has.
Restaurant India: How sustainable is our menu today? What strategies should one involve to make a sustainable menu?
Chef: I think it starts with zero waste in the business. First we have to make our business sustainable. I always look at the dustbins of my kitchen to see what is being thrown in it. Sustainable food is not only good for us but for all who are involved in the process. From producer to consumer, everybody will be benefited from it.
Also, Local and seasonal food is sustainable. I suggest chefs my fraternity to introduce more and more seasonal products. I find most of the menus filled with paneer but I don’t see any dish made from ghia or loki. Nobody has invented anything further on it. At salad chef we use Red and green amaranth leaves and fenugreek leaves as an additions to salads. We also use mustard leaves in the season. Rocket and mustard leaves have a similar flavor because of the pungency. We substitute them with each other. If we create demand for dishes made from local produce then farmers will also benefit.
I should also talk about the price crash, where a farmer or producer does not even get a price of the produce to harvest it. Leave the rest of the things behind. Hence they leave it and let it get rotten. If we grow anything unseasonal, it will need an artificial environment. So growing seasonal is sustainable. Many chefs I know are making dynamic menus. One team is always working on the seasonal menu.
More plant based food should be encouraged because meat is a source of big carbon footprint and release more methane to the environment. If you cut down the meat dishes in the menu, the menu will be more sustainable.