Dressing Up Dishes
I have closely followed the hospitality industry for over a decade now. When I started, food had everything to do with cooking, ingredients, techniques, chefs, restaurants, culinary trends and a lifestyle adherence. Over the years, I grew closer to this industry which had a very standard stance at that point of time — chefs were invisible while the owners took centre stage, food got plated by unknown faces and the menus were churned out on the basis of popular trends.
Some of the characteristics of this industry have remained stagnant. But some elements that come from both the fashion and food industries have created a ripple effect which fuses the various verticals of lifestyle, driving people to see how food is made fashionable these days.
TV has played an important role by bringing newer, younger and better looking chefs to our screens. From the #SadakChef nomad Saransh Goila and the dashing Ranveer Brar — whose effervescent personality entices sleepy afternoon viewers to step up their cooking game — to the young faces who light up the cooking-competition space such as MasterChef India finalist Karishma Sakhrani. They and many others have single-handedly egged the industry on to put a face to food. Today, every kitchen worth its salt will push its humble, often-times introverted chefs to the front. As spokespersons, who better than the creators to talk about their creations?
Sakhrani worked in the fashion industry before moving on to participate in the Indian edition of MasterChef. With her perfectly coiffed hair and style, she cut a pretty picture for young girls to emulate. Today, her social media pages are interspersed with her daily dose of fashion inspirations and her delectable dishes, which are vegan and vegetarian-forward. “There is an upswing in conscious eating, which not only means eating healthy but also consuming more natural and organic produce, and less processed food. There’s also been a keener interest in cooking gourmet food at home among millennials. This is largely due to shows like MasterChef and exposure through travel,” she says. She has used her TV and fashionista avatar to influence her audience to eat right and live fabulously.
Fashion model, cookbook author and restaurateur, MasterChef Australia Season 6 winner Sarah Todd has donned everything from a trilby to a toque. When she moved to India and partnered with Delhi-based restaurateur Ashish Dev Kapur, she went on to introduce a few unique concepts around the country, cashing in on her international celebrity status. If you think all you need is a pretty face to sell food, you are wrong! Armed with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu, London, she has brought us some inspiring and revolutionary concepts such as Antares in Goa, Whisky Samba in Delhi and most recently, The Wine Rack in Mumbai. Her driving force is motivating young people to follow their passions and forge their way into an industry that inspires them. She abides by this piece of advice: “Once you get there, the only way to succeed is through hard work, determination and persistence. It’s not an easy path ahead, and with social media it’s easy to get swayed and think it’s all glossy, fun and easy. But it’s all hard work no matter what industry you pursue professionally.” Todd has become a role model for people who want to be in control of a restaurant.
On the topic of social media and its influence, Mumbai-based Sonam Babani, luxury consultant and online fashion priestess, lives the life of an heiress. Focusing on haute couture while trotting around the world, she is the new-age influencer who has captured a keen ‘aspirational’ following on her platforms. You’d think that most of what she portrays is excruciatingly unaffordable, but a recent trip to Florence, Italy changed her perspective on alternate lifestyle influences. On her blog (fashioneiress.com), she wrote about a truffle exploration and gathering, which ended in a cooking session at a rustic cooking school in the middle of the woods. In a few days, she had some followers posting pictures of their own truffle-exploration experiences through local restaurants and kitchen shelves. “It was like discovering a completely new side to my audience and it broadened my scope of representing luxury lifestyle products online,” she noted with excitement. She also revealed some insider information on how a top model munched away on an entire pizza backstage, contrary to the belief that models eat virtually nothing to stay in shape. “If she (the model) had posted this online, it would have driven away a lot of myths and created a new trend,” Babani quips.
The food industry churns out trends every season or year, putting the spotlight on ingredients, cooking techniques and cuisines de rigueur. Though chefs stay up-to-date and adapt to current trends, they also maintain their own style. Thus, just like the rules of fashion, there are no rules apart from simply being inspired by trends and amalgamating them in a way that represents your own personal style.
Food trends, much like those of fashion, come and go. However, Todd believes one in particular is here to stay: “To respect the ingredient and support the ingredient delicately and gently. And yet, it should be accompanied by a natural gesture of spices, herbs, flowers and textures that modify the dish in a way to enhance but not overpower the ingredient. Use very little of the elements. The way we dress a dish is not comprised solely of the core elements that are plated, but also, more importantly, of the elements that act as supports and accompaniments.”