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A Smart Food Culinary Challenge video series, the first-ever reality show for a cause with young chefs pan-India, was launched at Tasting India Symposium in New Delhi through the SmartFood Global YouTube channel recently.
In order to popularise millets among aspiring chefs, this five-part docu-drama captures the exciting journey of 56 student chefs (28 teams) from 16 culinary institutes across India in their attempts to bring innovative millet cuisines to the table.
Guided by expert chefs Anahita Dhondy, chef manager, SodaBottleOpenerWala; Ramasamy Selvaraju, executive chef, Vivanta by Taj, and Vinod K Bhatti, range and commercial manager, IKEA Food, India, the student chefs learnt about the nutritional benefits of millets and different ways of sustainably cooking them by sourcing locally and preventing wastage.
The series was produced for M S Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences (MSRUAS) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
It was launched by noted gastronomes Sourish Bhattacharyya, founding director of the symposium, and Sanjoo Malhotra, co-founder of the symposium.
Five episodes of the series will be released at 7pm every Friday starting this week. Episode 1 will be aired on December 20, 2019; Episode 2 on December 27, 2019; Episode 3 on January 3, 2020; Episode 4 on January 10, 2020, and the grand finale, Episode 5, on January 17, 2020.
“It has been my goal to promote our traditional foods among the youth and help them better understand nutrition. Millets deserve a lot more attention as they are Smart Food — good for you, the planet and the farmer,” said Dhondy.
“This year, the competition has reached a whole new level. The students outdid themselves in using these traditional grains in both fine dining and traditional dishes,” said Selvaraju.
“The majority of the student chefs had never-cooked millets, but were really excited to learn about the huge variety in types and ways to cook them, ranging from savoury to sweet dishes by using millets as a rice substitute, in flour and flakes or by popping them,” said Priya Arjun, head, Nutrition and Nutraceutical Research Centre (NNRC), MSRUAS.
“The innovative ways these students have used millets in desserts, salads and in main course is commendable. They have replaced rice completely with millets,” said Bhatti.
The reality series captures the preliminary round at MSRUAS as well as the live challenge held during the Organics and Millets 2019 – International Trade Fair in Bengaluru earlier this year.
The students took on a variety of dishes, from traditional to fine dining platters, desserts and beverages, using at least 50 per cent millets, while proving that these ancient grains are versatile as well as nutritious.
The young chefs impressed the judges with their hearty and wholesome three-course meals, and seven exceptional teams progress to the final round, where one team will be crowned the Smart Food Culinary Challenge Champion. In addition to testing their culinary skills, the challenge also tested their knowledge of millets through a rapid quiz.
“Creating a reality show like this engages the youth with millets in a whole new way. The students were very excited to learn and connect with their traditions and at the same time accepting millets as a new age food,” said Joanna Kane-Potaka, executive director, Smart Food, and assistant director general, external relations, ICRISAT.