The first of a series of India-wide Smart Food Culinary Symposia was organized for chefs from major fine dining chains and food service representatives in Bengaluru. Experts from government, training, nutrition and agriculture were on hand to ponder over challenges and opportunities. Millets were the center of discussions, and approaches to help develop the industry were discussed with Dr Jagadeesha, Commissioner, Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka.
The symposium was jointly conducted by MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, Government of Karnataka and the International Crops Research Institute of the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
It was convened by chefs and representatives from leading fine dining establishments (The Embassy Group, Vivanta by Taj, Oberoi hotels, IKEA), health food companies and craft brewers (Growfit, Lipi Restaurant, The Biere Club, Jus Amazin Food & Beverage Pvt Ltd, Toit Brewpub) and Bruhat Bangalore Hotels Association.
The meeting was chaired by Dr Jagadeesha. Prof Govind Kadambi, Pro-Vice Chancellor, MS Ramaiah University and Chef Ramasamy Selvaraju, Vivanta by Taj, Bengaluru, discussed the opportunities and bottlenecks in introducing millet food options in fine dining kitchens.
Chef Vikas Seth, Culinary Director at The Embassy Group, shared his success story on introducing finger millet (ragi) tacos and the concept of using local ingredients to make global cuisines. He also noted the importance of popularizing regional cuisines with millets and making such foods a part of the hospitality and tourism industry.
Sharing findings from the nutrition study – ‘Providing millet meals as part of Mid-day meal scheme’, which was done in association with The Akshaya Patra Foundation, Dr Anitha Seetha, Nutrition Scientist, ICRISAT, brought to focus the importance of designing simple menus which can be cooked in centralized kitchens.
Apart from the lack of awareness of nutritional benefits, a key concern raised by the restaurateurs is the cost of millet grains in comparison to rice and wheat. In reply, Dr Jagadeesha outlined efforts by the Government of Karnataka to bring down the cost of millets. The first is setting up the Karnataka State Agricultural Produce Processing and Export Corporation Ltd (KAPPEC) and organizing the Organics & Millets 2019 – International Trade Fair to facilitate direct procurement from farmers. The second is a plan to set up more small-scale millet processing units to reduce the processing cost.
Chef Sridhar Krishnan from Nutrition and Nutraceutical Research Centre, MS Ramaiah University, spoke about the need for research in defining appropriate varieties and quantity of millets to bring out the nutritional benefits while balancing the taste of the dish.
During the concluding remarks, Dr Jagadeesha thanked MS Ramaiah University and ICRISAT for the support towards Karnataka Millet Mission and invited the participants to attend the Organics & Millets International Fair from 18 – 20 January 2019 at the Bengaluru Palace.
The symposium was held at MS Ramaiah University on 7 December.