Yet another LF Epicurean Guild Awards (LFEGA) concluded amidst great fanfare! The third edition of LFEGA saw stalwarts, thought leaders and next gen of the burgeoning food industry and restaurant business in India come together to applaud and recognise the successes of their peers.
Co-curated by Chef Manu Chandra, LFEGA 2019 winners list was a stellar collections of new names and stalwarts. The winners list was drawn out by a jury panel through an unbiased and completely transparent judging process—it is LFEGA’s biggest strength and highlight. The jury included names such as Rocky Mohan, Kunal Vijaykar, Karen Anand, Antoine Lewis, Ruma Singh, Shuchir Suri amongst other illustrious names.
Compared to previous years’ many of LFEGA categories were re-evaluated and consolidated. At the same time, some really deserving and important categories were also introduced. But most importantly, one of LFEGA’s key focus is to recognise India’s culinary leaders who look beyond what is on the plate and are true torchbearers of India’s cuisines and ambassadors of the nation’s culinary journey and evolution.
The trophy—The Flame—is a symbol of the fire that drives all life force. The philosophy is best expressed in a kitchen, where tastes, flavours and textures evolve from flames. The LF Flames is the best expression of the thought process of LFEGA that is the driving force of creating exemplary culinary experiences. It also indicates the scale of excellence offered by a fine dining destination.
Lifetime Achievement Award
One such man is Chef Manjit Singh Gill. With his trademark red turban, the corporate executive chef for ITC Hotels was the recipient of the lifetime achievement award at LFEGA 2019. Chef Gill is also the president of Indian Federation of Chefs Association. Under his tutelage, Bukhara at ITC Maurya was the only leading Indian restaurant on various international best restaurants lists. He is also one of the foremost names when it comes to Ayurvedic diet and also how to emulate it in daily lives. He has and continues to be the guiding light for budding chefs and established chefpreneurs.
Chef of the YearOn the other of the spectrum of culinary mastermind is the singular young
man, who is single handedly trying to change (and succeeding) how local Indian
food and culinary heritage is understood and perceived, Chef Thomas Zacharias,
executive chef of Mumbai-based The Bombay Canteen, was the recipient of the
Chef of the Year at LFEGA 2019. He is known for his unwavering faith in
hyper-local Indian produce and his wanderlust for new ‘foodie’
destinations—Japan being the most recent.
Iconic Restaurant of the Year
If there is one restaurant in India that the world knows of is Bukhara at ITC Maurya Delhi. From heads of states to power listers from across the world, when travelling to India, have made a pit stop at Bukhara. The 41-year-old restaurant is known for its North West Frontier cuisine served in a most rustic setting. The celebrated eponymous dal cooked for 18 hours on a slow fire is also the restaurant’s biggest export. So much so, that sister concern of ITC Hotels sells Ready-To-Eat version of the Dal Bukhara across the world! If that doesn’t make a restaurant iconic, nothing else will.
Three new categories were included in LFEGA 2019, which open the horizon for LF from food to social change. These awards were:
The Oyster Club:Five restaurants were chosen from the length and breadth of India, who are doing extraordinary work in promoting lesser known cuisines and regional variations, one dish at a time.
Adaminde Chayakadda, Calicut– This family-run restaurant focuses on Mappila or Moplah cuisine. With a bevy loyal patrons, Adaminde Chayakadda is bringing to the fore food traditions of the Muslim community from the Malabar region of Kerala
Maison Perumal, Pondicherry– In the heart of a 130-year-old Chettiar mansion, you get a glimpse of the quaintest culinary heritage—Franco-Tamil. The restaurant uses locally-grown produce focusing on the parent company, CGH Earth’s, sustainable philosophy.
Kareema, Srinagar– The Kashmiri Wazwan is a home affair and on special occasion where local wazas come together cook an on-the-spot meal, which could be as lavish or frugal based on the hosts means. It is a one-of-a-kind experience and it is what Kareema succeeds in offering.
Matamaal, Gurgaon– The second Kashmiri restaurant in this list that focuses on the other side of Kashmiri cuisine—Kashmiri Pandit cuisine. The dishes may sound similar to the popular go-to Kashmiri dishes, but the treatment is completely different and worth the taste.
Kappa Chakka Kandhari, Chennai– The restaurant was a travelling adventure where three wilful Malayalis decided to come together to showcase the based on Kerala cuisine, most of which has never taken a step out of the householder’s kitchen!
The Changemaker:Three organisations were shortlisted to for their initiatives where they’ve used food as the medium to bring about change in the society. Roti Bank, Robin Hood Army and ISKCON have taken up the onus of benefitting the underprivileged members of the Indian society by providing sustenance. The winner for this category is ISKCON, who with their Hare Krishna Food For Life movement have provided to not just children in India but world over whenever there has been a calamity or upheavals.
Honouring Inclusive F&B Establishments:Restaurants, too, are becoming medium of social change. From employing differently-abled citizens in their work force to offering dignity and financial independence to those who are struck by tragedy. The key component here to consider is the fact that this need for inclusiveness is not a CSR initiative.
Sheroes Hangout, Lucknow– India has one of the highest number of cases of acid attack. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 2016 saw 283 recorded incidents and 307 survivors in acid attacks. Women are the primary prey of these heinous attacks and life for survivors is dismal. Sheroes Hangout is an effort to offer these survivors a chance at social integration and confidence building.
Mirchi and Mime– The Mumbai-based restaurant is known for its contemporary take on Indian food as well as an impressive drinks menu. Mirchi and Mime has garnered popularity for the smiling faces of the service and kitchen staff who despite their speech and hearing impairment offer impeccable service. The menu has been designed in such a way that makes it easy for you to communicate with the staff.
Lemon Tree Hotels– With presence in over 32 cities, homegrown hotel brand hotel chain Lemon Tree’s payroll includes 12 per cent employees who are differently-abled. What started as a gesture of gratitude for founder Patu Keswani has become a company culture and business model.
Cuisine categories form the core of LFEGA. In 2019 it was divided into the following:
Best Traditional Indian Restaurant:The fare at Karavalli at Taj Gateway Bangalore is a sample of the western coastal fare. What makes the experience one-of-a-kind is the home-style approach to the food and the ambience. Chef Naren Thimmaiah’s vision and execution in preserving the traditional recipes has been flawless.
Best Progressive Indian Restaurant:On the flip side of traditional is the avant garde version of Indian food where every meal is a revelation. Indian Accent, under the guidance of Chef Manish Mehrotra, is undoubtedly the leader of the genre, where he has flipped traditional dishes and cooking techniques on its head to offer a dining experience that leaves you spellbound. The Bombay Canteen was their worthy adversary.
Best Emerging Indian Restaurant:There is a new breed of restaurants that is not satisfied by just scratching the surface of India’s culinary diversity. They have dug deepers unearthing secrets and offering revelations that we are going to be indebted for. Oota Bangalore, in this case, has presented all that Karnataka has to offer from Mangalore to Coorg and small communities interspersed. Did you know there are five basic regions that Karnataka’s local food can be divided into?
Best Chinese Restaurant:For the second in year in a row Yauatcha has won the Flame for Best Chinese restaurant. A feat that shows their mastery over the yum cha culture or the Chinese tea house experience goes un-defeated.
Best Multi-Asian Restaurant:Triumphing over last year’s winners Koko, Mumbai, Pan Asian at ITC Maratha Mumbai won this award. The restaurant is known for its extensive Asian offerings, may it be Yakitori or Japanese.
Best Italian Restaurant:With a focus on Neapolitan cuisine and extensive wine list, Vetro at The Oberoi Mumbai offers classical Italian dishes with a flair. Most recently, they’ve been getting regional chefs from Italy to give you a true taste of Italy
Best Seafood Restaurant:India has been blessed with abundance of seafood but not many understand how to make the most of it. Mumbai-based Bastian won the award for showcasing the best of India’s seafood in the most innovative and sustainable manner.
Best Nightlife: With the bar as the centre of activity and attraction of the Cantonese-style club, The Hong Kong Club was the winner for the Best Nightlife at LFEGA 2019.
Best New Restaurant:A restaurant that celebrates all things carnivore, The Smoke Co with its very own smokehouse, where the chunks of meat are salted, cured, smoked and barbecued, was deemed the Best New Restaurant. The Smoke Co. beat the equally popular Mustard from Mumbai.
Best Innovative Restaurant Concept:Dedicated to farm-to-fork and with as little waste as possible, Chef Prateek Sadhu at Masque takes the lead in reimagining traditional Indian dishes and hyper-local ingredients particularly from the Himalayas.
Food isn’t the only space where India is progressing. Beverages have become an equally exciting discovery space and Indian wines and craft beers have finally reached critical mass. LFEGA thought they deserved the fray of competition.
Best Indian Wine:The terrain of Akluj in Maharashtra, has created the extraordinary Super Tuscan style wine of Sette. Fratelli Wines’ winemaker Piero Masi will only give the go ahead for a new vintage to be bottled if there is potential for the wine to be aged. This well rounded and long-finished 2015 vintage of Sette was adjudged more deserving of the best wine award after defeating the tough competition of Krsma Estates’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.
Best Indian Craft Beer:One of the earliest, bottled craft beer brands in India, White Rhino is dedicated to quality of their brews—one of the reasons why they want to take it easy expand their market beyond Delhi-NCR. The India Pale Ale they brew, with its citrus notes and clean finish, expresses the India best in the IPA.
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