December 2019 | 628 words | 2-minute read
When the iconic Thai Pavilion at President, Mumbai, opened in its new avatar in 2007, we used to do almost three to four seatings a night and late nights were common. Not anymore.
The numbers haven’t gone down. Business hasn’t dipped. What has changed are eating patterns. People have adopted healthier lifestyles and stopped eating late. Previously the practice of ordering leaned towards displaying a lot of food on the table; people don’t do that either now.
Diners today want to control their food intake while continuing to eat at least three or four courses. They have also become very mindful about not wasting food. Trashing is taboo now. We have embraced this change by adjusting our portion sizes.
We are very conscious of wastage at every stage. In the kitchen, we optimise the use of every ingredient. If you take any vegetable or meat, every cut tastes different, and everything can be used. If I can’t use it as a starter or a main course, I can use it in a gravy or stock. For instance, while broccoli florets are used as main dishes, the stems are used in stir fries. Even peels are useful — carrot, celery, turnip peels enhance the flavour of stock and peels of a ridge gourd can be used to make a chutney. We keep this in mind right from the time we design the menu.
On the dining table, we ensure that whatever the diner picks up, including the garnish, is edible.
Diners today have a conscious intelligence. They are mindful about what they are eating, and choose a place with strong food ethics. As a result, the traceability of food has emerged as another very important factor. You have to be transparent about what you serve from the source to the table.
There is an increased focus on the use of local ingredients. We are all for it, but we have to strike the right balance. You cannot use local ingredients in certain dishes, because you don’t get the right taste. While we do a lot with local ingredients at the Konkan Café (which serves cuisines from the regions located along India’s Konkan coast), we have to import items for the right flavours at Trattoria (which serves Italian fare) and Thai Pavilion.
The tomatoes at Trattoria, for example, come from Italy; the tomatoes grown in India will never taste the same because it is all a game of the soil. And thanks to reduced travel times globally, we are able to ensure that even our imported ingredients retain their freshness.
At President, Mumbai, all our kitchens are also open now. Our working is more transparent. Today, if there is a complaint about any food item, we can trace back every ingredient, down to the salt, all the way to the supplier and figure out what has gone wrong.
Joy of a good meal
We are seeing — and are prepared for — fast-changing diet trends and dietary demands. There is an increase in demand for plant-based food, probiotics and collagen. The big trend right now seems to be the Keto diet. Keeping in mind that the taste is not compromised, and the basic cuisine doesn’t change, we will ensure that the guest gets the meal she or he wants.
Having said that, I have also noticed that when people eat out, they still do so for a special experience or a celebration. So, for that moment they are happy to cheat on their diets, and we are happy to help them do so.
As told to Harsha Ramachandra and Monali Sarkar
Photographs by Tejal Pandey