Someone asked India’s only female Michelin Star chef for a bhindi recipe, and you’d probably expect the ultimate bhindi recipe to come your way. But, no.
“There is no one way to make bhindi in India,” says Garima Arora. And therein lies the essence of a cuisine that is as diverse and magical as no other. That Indian cooking is based on instinct and andaz is known. We’ve all grown up watching our mothers and grandmothers cook with their hearts, not letting any cookbooks decide the measurement of their ingredients. The hand or the fingers act as the mediator between the ingredients and spices, and the cooking pot.
“If being a chef, I can’t really explain to someone how to make bhindi, how does someone with no culinary background approach a cuisine that’s so complicated as India’s,” Arora wonder aloud, telling us of the moment the idea for Food Forward hit her. “That was when I realised there has to be some standardization as a starting point, and not to take away the human aspect of it,” explains Gaa Bangkok’s Head Chef. Food Forward India is a nonprofit initiative that brings together the most relevant and passionate individuals from the Indian food community.
“I find throughout the world that Indian food is extremely misunderstood and under-appreciated and it is time we take responsibility to change that. Indian cuisine is full of ancient recipes, techniques and food philosophies that are extremely relevant to the modern cook anywhere. With Food Forward India we hope to create a platform for the brightest minds of the industry to bring back a sense of curiosity and a more intelligent outlook on Indian food,” she says.
It comes back to education. If there is some idea about Indian food that we want to propagate, we have to educate people about it, believes Arora. Which is why she thinks that after preservation and documentation, education is one of the other factors that’s crucial in determining the future of Indian food. It could start from as small as teaching children how food is grown to the supply chain of how food gets to you to the importance of appreciating that, she suggests.
To achieve such an imposing task, Arora has an equally strategic plan, which has started with gathering some of the country's greatest culinary minds. Think chefs, Thomas Zacharias of The Bombay Canteen, Prateek Sadhu of Masque, and Vanika Choudhary of Sequel Bistro. That's not all. The initiative has also roped in industry spearheads like food critic, author and culinary personality Rashmi Uday Singh; Computational Gastronomy pioneer, Associate Professor Dr Ganesh Bagler (IIT Delhi); pastry queen and baker Pooja Dhingra, food writer Anoothi Vishal; and food anthropologist and culinary expert Kurush Dalal.
Keep watching this space for updates on Food Forward project.