Churning out safe and organic food on the platter is what excites chef Ajay Anand, Director of Culinary, Pullman & Novotel, New Delhi.
It was his dream to have an organic garden within the restaurant, where he could pick up the ingredients just before dishing out a meal that inspired him to create the concept of farm to table. Speaking to, FFT, Ajay shares his journey of creating this concept and its viability.
FFT: What inspired you to come up with the concept of farm to table?
The rise in usage of synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers in farming is not healthy for daily consumption, and tackling this, a lot of emphasis is being laid on organic farming, producing fresh and safe food to serve our guests. I learned the farm to fork concept in France, where I worked for Chef Georges Blanc, and his idea of making his own kitchen garden inspired me to introduce this concept of “Farm To Table”.
FFT: What makes your concept stand exclusive?
This concept excels as it gives fresh and healthy produce on the table to eat. I think we are the first hotel to have an in-house farm where guests get to see where their greens come from. This transparency delights them and keeps them coming back for more.
FFT: Who is your target customer and How do you plan to keep up with the ever changing mind of the consumer?
Our target customers are the guests staying at the hotel and the residents of Delhi NCR. As the in-house farm supplies the vegetables and greens to Pluck, the menu is seasonal, which is locally focused and globally artistic. This helps in maintaining variety, and hence interest in the mind of the consumer that wants something new.
FFT: What kind of consumers (background, age etc.) are you able to draw ? How difficult or how easy is it with a so called “concept”?
Our guests are a mix of business and leisure. The concept has universal acceptance as people are now becoming more aware of what they eat. Initially it was difficult as the soil of the farm didn’t support me, but after working with inputs from farmers in Himachal Pradesh, we were able to get the desired results.
FFT: How has the changing world cultures changed the food & beverage business?
With globalisation playing a huge role on the variety of food people are experiencing, I feel, we are witnessing a big trend towards quality food with emphasis on freshness, organic and locavore food.
However, authentic, and ethnic cuisine will never fade away because the ultra-modern people are now so well versed with food around the world that they want to have something, “ Modern”, and that’s why Modern Indian cuisine will be the next big thing.
FFT: What experience or thought would you want your customer/consumer to leave with after dining at the restaurant?
I would want my guest to leave with a feeling of contentment with the assurance of having eaten fresh and 100% organic produce.
FFT: What kind of food do you grow, depending on season, menu or something else altogether ?
Our in-house farm produces organically grown vegetables for Pluck, which is maintained by me and my chefs. When we started the restaurant in November 2015, we planned to sow the winter vegetables by August in the garden, which had cauliflower, cabbages, spinach, radishes etc. When summers were approaching, we planned in February, and sowed bottle gourd, bitter gourds, pumpkins, watermelons, herbs like mint, parsley, etc. Now I have them ready to be served in my restaurant. Hence my menu revolves as per the produce of my farm. Vegetables keep changing as per the season but the herbs like basil, lemon grass, thyme, oregano, mint etc will be seen throughout the year.
FFT: What defines Delhi for you? How important is Delhi in the global food scene ?
Delhi is a city of celebration. Every festival of India is celebrated here with the same mirth and joy as it is done in that particular state. This attribute makes it a good platform to showcase the global food scene. Here, one can see the confluence of cultures and flavours under one roof.
FFT: Future of farm to table and its viability in a city like Delhi ?
Even though we have many good Indian restaurants around in Delhi, consumers are now more daring to try different things, be it Pulled Tandoori Chicken Cannelloni at Pluck, Pullman New Delhi Aerocity, which infuses flavours from west and our own favourite Tandoori Chicken, there has been a huge transformation to cooking styles from “dum” preparations being now replaced with Sous-vide, even for Indian dishes. Combination of traditional styles of cooking like Kebas finished on Tawa/Tandoor/Angeethi, are now being incorporated through molecular Gastronomy.
Guests in Delhi now have begun to favour fresh foods over fad diets and tasting menus with grazing portions over large portions of food. Farm to table or locator or zero kilometre food is the new in thing.
Location: Pluck, Pullman Aerocity, New Delhi.