From Waste to Wonder: The Changing Face of Fine Dining

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The fine dining scene in India is undergoing a shift towards sustainability. Restaurants are prioritizing local ingredients, minimizing waste, and creating menus that showcase seasonal flavors.
  • Sakshi Singh
Fig & Maple

In the realm of fancy restaurants in India, the environment often takes a backseat when it comes to menu planning. They proudly serve Norwegian salmon (or claim to), Chilean sea bass, imported cured meats from the Mediterranean, and frozen exotic vegetables. Meanwhile, across the globe, restaurants are working on reducing their carbon footprint, aiming to tread lightly on the planet. 

Even the prestigious Michelin Guide has been awarding "green stars" to eco-friendly restaurants since 2020, highlighting their use of local and seasonal ingredients. However, smaller restaurants in India have long understood the importance of resourcefulness. They stick to limited menus and seasonal produce that caters to their communities. While this approach may not align with modern culinary trends or maximize profits, city restaurants striving to be environmentally conscious have found their own path. Some chefs champion local ingredients, minimize waste, and aim to offer memorable dining experiences without compromising on quality.

Upon inaugurating her establishment, Fig & Maple, in 2016, Radhika Khandelwal, the chef and proprietor, adopted a meticulous approach to minimize food waste. At the close of each day, she would measure the discarded food to identify further opportunities for achieving a zero-waste kitchen.

Presently, both the Delhi and Goa branches of the restaurant showcase culinary creations that ingeniously incorporate elements of produce that many consider inedible. In Delhi, the best-selling item is a delectable assortment of chips crafted from the peels of root vegetables. Meanwhile, the Goa menu boasts khandvi prawns accompanied by a sumptuous bisque derived from the shells of these very crustaceans.

Harsh Sonthalia owner of Soba Sassy expressed that fine dining establishments are now actively promoting sustainability by minimizing waste, championing local ingredients, and serving seasonal dishes.

“They employ strategies like portion control, nose-to-tail cooking, and recycling programs to reduce waste. By sourcing ingredients locally, these restaurants support local farmers, reduce transportation carbon footprint, and ensure freshness. They also design menus that showcase seasonal ingredients, offering the best flavors while minimizing the environmental impact of long-distance transportation,” he added.

The world is seeing a resurgence in all sectors post covid and restaurant industry is one of those sectors. With the growth story of India there has to be a natural growth of the F&B industry of the country. Praveen Jaiswal, owner of Yeti feels that f&b outlets are well aware of the multiple benefits of depending on local produce which is cost effective aswell. “With the change in seasons we have that opportunity to freshen up our menu as well. For instance, Mango in the summer time or Hilsa fish in Kolkata once the monsoon hits. There are numerous benefits to this approach and not a single down side,” he pointed.

Fine dining establishments are also advocating sustainability by adopting various practices to minimize waste. Chefs are becoming increasingly creative in utilizing all parts of an ingredient, from root to stem, to reduce food waste. They find innovative ways to incorporate vegetable scraps, meat trimmings, and other leftovers into their dishes, minimizing waste while adding unique and exciting elements to the culinary experience. Additionally, fine dining restaurants are exploring eco-friendly packaging options, implementing recycling and composting systems, and reducing energy consumption to further reduce their environmental impact.

Nikhil Chawla, partner at Poach shared, “As more fine dining establishments embrace sustainability, we can savor exquisite meals guilt-free, knowing that our indulgence is in harmony with the health of our planet.”  

The fine dining scene in India is undergoing a shift towards sustainability. Restaurants are prioritizing local ingredients, minimizing waste, and creating menus that showcase seasonal flavors. This commitment to sustainability not only benefits the environment but also supports local farmers and enhances the overall dining experience. It's an exciting time as India's fine dining industry embraces responsible practices and creates a more environmentally conscious culinary landscape.

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