Questioning the role of personalisation and creativity when pre-mixes and sauces are being used to cook food!
Personalisation and creativity is a chef's identity. But then we wonder where and when does personalisation and creativity come into being if everything is just ‘pre-mixed’?
The F & B market is such a large and varied space and the unique bit is that every entity has something special to offer. The market thrives on being able to stand out of the crowd and bring something fresh to the table. If an outlet isn’t able to offer anything unique to the market it will slowly perish. That’s the beauty of the trade, where to stay in business one needs to continuously evolve and bring freshness to the palate.
Personalisation is the key and the ability to connect with guests and deliver customised meal is highly essential. The uniqueness of every entity to fabricate unique, customised meals for their guests would be the key to running a sustainable business. Mayur Ramachandran, Executive Chef, Holiday Inn , Bengaluru Racecourse says, “In such a scenario if players aren’t able to create anything unique and were to end up using the same blanket mass produced sauces and pre mixes, they would be caught on a back foot and then the writing is on the wall. This is where the emphasis on creating an identity comes into the picture and the necessity to stand out is crucial.”
The millennial mind set demands for a quick and creative meals, here the pre-mixes plays an important role in chefs life, to be more creative in food preparation. Arun Mathur, Senior Executive Sous Chef of Trident, Gurgaon considers fusion food as an example of creativity. Fusion food is served to the guest with all new creative ideas put in with heathy and delicious dishes. Chefs show case their creative minds not only by experimenting at preparations but also taking into consideration the time constraints owing to the guest demands.
‘There is no end for creativity’ is what the chefs believe. The convenience foods are just bases and not the final product, so there is still scope for personalisation and how one can play around with these bases. Stalin Louis, Executive Sous Chef, Fortune Hotels by ITC assures, “The best of your creativity happens to be present on the final product, therefore more focus should be given while infusing flavours, blending two or more bases together, garnishing and plate presentations.”
The pre-mixed sauces provide the foundation and the chefs can then build their creativity on the same. Bidesh Biswas, Executive Chef, Hometel Chandigarh says, “Sky is the limit. These pre-mixes does not hinder the creativity of the chefs, rather they provide them more opportunity and time to work on their creation on these.
So, everything just revolves around the fact that there is no ‘full stop’ to your thoughts. One is free to try anything which comes up in your mind; if it comes out well, then it can be on your menu the next day and if it fails, then you can think of another permutation and combination. A dessert named as “Red Velvet brownie” was a hit which is nothing but a combination of red velvet & a brownie premix with lots of walnuts and choco chips.
Personalisation and creativity, many believe, are two things that don’t even come close to when pre mixes are in talk. Suraj Kumar Sahoo, Chef De Cuisine, Hyatt Regency Pune says, “It’s like having a bad foundation to work with since you are only dwelling on what was earlier laid. Although personalisation can be done with the choice of proteins and vegetables, creativity unfortunately suffers vast limitations.”
Chef Anuraag Narsingani from JW Marriott Pune says, “With there being so much room to experiment and try out new combinations, there will be absolutely no scope for personalisation and creativity in the recipes if established chefs from great schools start using premixes.” One then begs the question as to what is the personal touch that the chef brings into the recipe. "Choosing to prepare the sauces and spices by themselves and presenting recipes that customers relish is what will separate the best from the rest," he says
A lot of industry chefs do believe that pre-mixes should only be used when they are the ‘only’ option available. Rajeev Janveja, Corporate Chef, Lemon Tree Hotels Ltd. mentions, “We believe that this is why we try to ensure that no recipe depends completely on a pre-mix – it is only one of many elements that go into a dish. We feel that we actually add life to food whether it is pre-mixed or freshly prepared.” Additionally, creativity and food presentation is the art of modifying or decorating food to enhance its flavor and aesthetic appeal.
There should be a balance between pre-mixed and fresh as it helps to introduce creative flavours and spices that help to bring a more personalised touch in terms of texture, flavour, colour and aroma. Every region of India is known for its specific spices and flavourings and their specific cooking methods. Kapil Sahi, Executive Chef , Radisson Noida therefore says that this would help a chef to play with ingredients and give a personalised touch to the dish and creativity by creating a balance between premixes and fresh produce which increases the flavours, thus increasing taste of dish visually and aesthetically.
Soju Philip, Executive Chef, Ramada Resort Kochi says, “As a chef I give primary importance to the freshness of the ingredients and authenticity of the recipe to create the original taste. If using these pre mixes there is very less scope to show justice to the product. I always believe in the authenticity of dishes and for that I require the freshest ingredients, spices and real time preparation to preserve its flavours and taste.”
Cooking is a long process which needs a strong passion towards it. Selecting the ingredients, careful pre-preparation, cooking, balancing the spices, and finally ending in a dish which we given the maximum affection is something unique rather than thinking cooking is just for the sake of making food, just shop into a super market and selecting some unfamiliar items from the shelf and follow their guidelines and produce a factory pre-set dish. Each and every food has an identity. This identity is made by the person who prepares it.