All That Went Down At The Food For Thought Fest—A Unique Platform For Culinary Dialogues

The historic city of Ahmedabad witnessed a unique celebration of food. The Food For Thought Fest presented by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation at the prestigious Sabarmati River Front Event Centre, on March 8 to 10, served as a platform for insightful discussions around the diverse culinary heritage of the South Asian region. It focussed on the intersection between food and culture, the different influences that shaped narratives around royal dining tables, and age-old recipes from the kitchens of the kings. It also kept up with current food trends with panel discussions around Food for Fitness and Beauty, The Film Fraternity Diet, and Emotional Eating in Stress & Fasting Reset for Healing.

Top chefs from India and abroad held cookery masterclasses for eager audiences and the evenings were drawn to a close with music performances by indie bands and DJs. Spanning three days, the all-vegetarian festival brought together stalwarts from the dining industry, food from different regions and live entertainment.

A forum for cultural exchange

The Food For Thought Fest

A highlight of the festival was the focus on the intricate relationship between culture and cuisine. A panel discussion that Chirag Mohanty Samal, the senior editor of Travel + Leisure India & South Asia moderated with culinary luminaries such as Maharani Radhika Raje Gaekwad, Nawab Kazim Ali of Rampur, Rani Meera Ali of Kotwara, Yuvrani Meenal Singh Deo of Dhenkanal and Gauri Ingle of Kolhapur focused on the Conservation of Royal Culinary Heritage. The conversations centered around the challenges of reviving and preserving old recipes handed down through generations. Presented in association with Kitchen of the Kings, an initiative of Royal Fables to put royal cuisines on the global map, discussions oscillated from documenting recipes on the verge of extinction to adapting these recipes to suit modern palates and making them accessible to a wider audience.

Nawab Kazim Ali spoke about the Rampur Raza Library which houses thousands of recipes but in old Persian script that can’t be transcribed, while Rani Meera Ali highlighted the difficulty she faced in meeting the families of erstwhile nawabs and chronicling the recipes that were only confined to their royal kitchens. Yuvrani Meenal Singhdeo, who hails from Wankaner in Gujrat and married into the Dhenkanal royal family, highlighted how alliances between different families shaped the culinary history. Gauri Ingle stressed the need for books, pop-ups, panel discussions, TV and social media to create awareness of our culinary heritage and work towards preserving it.

Cooking demonstration

Maharani Radhika Raje emphasised the important role that food plays in bringing communities together. Gujarat’s first LGBTQI café—Gajra—is her brainchild. From the chefs to the servers, the café is operated by the LGBTQI community. Her idea behind opening this cafe was to include the community in the mainstream, facilitate conversation and change people’s attitudes towards them.

Apart from this, there were other interesting panel discussions around Food for Fitness and Beauty, Women Power, and The Film Fraternity Diet that had important speakers like internationally acclaimed author and food critic Rashmi Uday Singh, fitness expert Vesna Jacob, supermodel Manu Bora, functional nutritionist Monique Jhingon and more.

The cookery masterclasses, that were a huge hit with the attendees, had Netflix star Chef Asma Khan from London, Bangladesh TV star Chef Nahid Osman, legendary Chef Manjit Gill, Celebrity Chef Amrita Raichand, and Chefs Dhruv Oberoi, Suvir Saran and Anahita Dhondy.

A Confluence of Cuisines

Dance performances

This year the Food Court presented two themes: A Taste of Luxury and The Regional Flavour. Luxury hotels provided a taste of luxury by showcasing their top dishes, served in tasting portions and priced reasonably for the guests to experience. Regional cuisines were presented through curated street food flavours. The Bazaar section joined hands with Royal Fables to present indigenous products from the ateliers of royal families as well as hand-made brands of India.

There were also three culinary pavilions, each offering a unique experience for a limited number of guests. The Royal Pavilion showcased the cuisines of royal families in association with Kitchen of the Kings. While Gauri Ingle showcased the food of fabled Maratha rules, Yuvrani Meenal Singh Deo brought to Gujarat popular Odia delicacies like Dalma and Chena Poda. The Spiritual Pavilion served food offered as bhog in revered temples from India and Nepal accompanied by soulful live performances of Raas Leela and Kirtaniyas; and a Wellness Pavilion served modern Indian cuisine prepared by a celebrity Chef, based on the three body types prescribed by Ayurveda.

Food for thought fest

The event presented by S.A.A.G (South Asian Association for Gastronomy) focused on the common heritage and history of the region, as well as the unique influences that are a part of it. All three evenings ended with live music by indie bands and DJs. The riverfront venue, the thought-provoking discussions and the expansive variety of food made the Food For Thought Fest a resounding success and generated the right conversations around our culinary heritage and tying them with the modern context that we live in.

All photographs courtesy of Food for Thought Fest

Related: Feast Like Royalty And Learn The Secrets Of India’s Royal Kitchens

Written By

Team T+L India

Team T+L India