According to a 2018 report ‘Food for Thought’ released by real estate company CBRE, 60% of Indian millennials make more than three visits a month for eating out. So much so that a 2017 Nielsen study’s findings stated that urban Indians tend to spend around INR 6500 per year on eating out. At the same time people are opting for smarter eating choices, with some even recognising the health benefits of making sustainable food choices concepts such as healthier menus, smaller portions, alternative proteins and local, fresh or responsibly sourced ingredients. The F&B business has taken note of the change. Big chains and smaller restaurants, alike, are incorporating healthy, organic and sustainable offerings without compromising on flavour.
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Joining the sustainable, local and organic (SLO) bandwagon is Khar’s Out of the Blue, a stalwart restaurant that’s slowly lodging itself firmly amongst the city’s top eco-conscious eateries. The restaurant has recently launched a new dinner menu under their maiden initiative, The Blue Launch Pad, which is powered by Project Network India. To further the cause of sustainable dining, the restaurant has also vowed to work with start-ups mirroring the same objectives.
All About SLO
By focussing on who are the producers and, where and how their ingredients are produced and processed; respecting the agricultural production chain so as to limit their environmental impact, this Out of the Blue wants to be recognised not only for their food but also their eco-friendly philosophy.
Associating with Farm2Fam, a quality micro-greens producer, Executive Chef Vivek Swamy of Out Of The Blue shares that the restaurant is changing the way microgreens are perceived while simultaneously leading a health revolution. According to Keya Salot, founder of Farm2Fam, the small bundles are a perfect blend of taste and nutrition as they have up to 40 times more nutrition than mature vegetables. Explaining the concept of micro-greens, she says, “Micro-greens are the first leaves that grow from the seeds of veggies or herbs, and are harvested within 14 days of germination.”
Out Of The Blue has also partnered with Fresh Roots, a sustainable tech-driven hydroponic farm producing fresh, clean, and nutritious produce. Pankaj Chawla, director and partner of the farm said that their produce is grown on a farm in the outskirts of Mumbai and is free from artificial pesticides and fertilisers since hydroponic farms do not need soil to grow crops.
The other association is with Taru Naturals, a fair-trade network that connects 10,000 small-scale farmers to markets. Founder Ruchi Jain tells us that the brand deals in heirloom varieties of grains, and high-quality products that are grown and processed by their farmers. Besides, Out of the Blue’s new menu is also the combined efforts of other brands such as Bon Vivant Chocolates, a French artisanal chocolate start-up that locally sources most of its ingredients and Yellow Bohemian Organic Coffee, a coffee brand certified by rainforest alliance, known globally for its compliance to keep all things clean, organic and within the norms of biodiversity.
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Each of these start-ups was handpicked based on the theme of the new menu i.e. SLO or their progressive innovation in the food and beverage industry, informs Rahul Bajaj, Owner, Out of The Blue. “What makes this new menu rather remarkable is that 75% of it is in line with SLO. This was the first time we got like-minded individuals together on the same page and promoted healthy unique artisanal organic produce,” he says.
What’s on your Plate?
After eight years of practising his culinary skills abroad, Chef Swamy longed for a touch of desi and the new menu at Out of the Blue is a reflection of this yearning. “Indian restaurants tend to focus on exotic ingredients such as asparagus, broccoli and zucchini on their menus, but what’s the sense in being a chef in India if I don’t cook with what is available locally? We are an agricultural nation, but we are leaving behind our roots in search for ingredients that are not even Indian.” Besides, consumers are willing to pay a premium for healthier and nutritious food, which fortunately can be achieved by using fresh, local ingredients, he says. For example, the hero in the Vietnamese Style Spring rolls, the microgreens, are from Farmr2fam and go beyond being a mere a garnish. “We chose to incorporate live microgreens since they have a strong flavour profile—the corn shoots for instance give you the exact taste of a bhutta—and decided not to play around and let the natural flavour of the greens shine,” Chef Swamy elaborates.
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On his rendition of coffee, Chef Swamy says, “Coffee is something that’s quite close to my heart as a South Indian; I’ve grown up drinking filter coffee. The coffee incorporated in the menu, via the Coffee Cured Duck Breast Prosciutto and Coffee Bread Bruschetta with a Chilli Tuile, is sourced from Coorg. This is the same filter coffee we south Indians drink at home, except the fact that this one is 100% organic.” The Lollorosso and Butterhead wrapped meatballs, which are available in both a lamb and tofu version come alongside an awla mostarda. “Mostarda is an Italian technique of making a condiment. It’s like an Italian achaar. I’ve pickled the awla and then combined it with a strong mustard essence, which was then allowed to age for about 26 days. This is then mixed with a sauce and then poured over the meatballs,” says Chef Swamy who’s cooking reflects a mix of Italian and French techniques.
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Few of the other dishes include, Gluten-free Honey Garlic Prawns, Chicken Chermoulla, The Big ole Greek Salad, along with a range of pizzas, where the pizza base is made of jowar, bajra, nachni, and even black rice. Their new menu features, Chicken in Brown Mole Sauce, Pan Seared Salmon, Black Rice chocolate fudge, Tiramisu, Vanilla pannacotta to name a few.
In order to ensure the sustainability of the food, Out Of The Blue plans to rotate the restaurant’s menu every six to eight months based on seasonal availability and partnering with more startups. “While the whole menu might not change, the ingredients used or the places that they’re sourced from might change in the long run. My aim is to have a 100% local, an as much as possible organic and also a sustainable menu, based mainly on the kinds of startups or brands we will be associating with,” says Chef Swamy
Also read: What is clean eating?
While the challenges of buying local food make up for the slight increase in cost which reflects on the menu, on the positive side, one will be helping to improve the local economy, helping local people, and most importantly, as a consumer, you will be getting fresher ingredients on your plate, says chef Swamy.
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