Amongst the many prominent food trends that have emerged across the country since the recovery of the hospitality industry post the pandemic-induced lockdown, one that has truly stuck around is the one of ‘ingredient-driven’ cuisine. The cuisine agnosticism associated with ingredient-centric food has given restaurants across India a limitless realm when it comes to making the most out of their local and regional produce. Although most consumers may believe that this is a new found concept and has become a “buzz-word” of sorts, the idea of showcasing a central ingredient in a dish should be (by default) an integral part of the fundamentals of an industrial kitchen.
The overarching goal should almost always be to utilize the produce around us rather than the mass affluent approach of sourcing ingredients from wild and niche locations. For restaurants today, the idea is to ensure that every ingredient has its own purpose in a dish. It’s not so much about giving the dish a unique name, as it is about showcasing the one hero ingredient, pairing it with flavors to put forth one wholesome dish with a burst of flavors. Doing so not only expands the horizons of research and development of exploring new ingredients, but also gives restaurants an opportunity to come up with a menu that may look structure-less but actually has an overall underlying theme to it that also trickles into a plethora of exciting cocktail menus that we see emerging across the country.
Restaurants are also moving away from the idea of ‘deconstruction’, because shining a spotlight on an ingredient does not and should not require serving one dish on four different plates - it defeats the purpose and takes away from the essence of the flavor camaraderie of elements that make an ingredient (be it an onion) take center stage. Similarly, if giving an ingredient a unique purpose is imperative, so is utilizing all of its aspects by repurposing it across other dishes on the menu or employing all of its growth stages (from seed to fruit). The idea of a zero-waste menu should not be a ‘wow’ factor, but should be a necessary pillar of menu creation and should come naturally and instinctively.
Due to the above, the importance of staying local, or at least regional, when it comes to purchasing has also reached a new level of significance. Earlier, buying local was the epitome of achievement — an indication that your restaurant cared about where its ingredients come from. Today, buying local is also an expedient business decision as it cuts down the uncertainty of ordering goods through an unstable supply chain; thereby reducing costs and ensuring that ingredients are fresh, while also maximizing the true potential of your chefs. Although the logistics of pulling off farmto-table in India are extremely difficult, doing your bit to support local farmers and suppliers should be an integral initiative for restaurants to partake in on a regular basis, thereby giving back to the community that provides the resources for the so-called ‘memorable dining experience’ that restaurants aim to provide to customers.