In 2016, this sounds unimaginable! “Quinoa, Brussel sprouts, chia seeds, amaranth and even millets, these are the sort of ingredients that our clients now ask for when placing orders,” says Parvinder Singh of Mini Punjab who caters for a bulk of the weddings in Mumbai and counts Bollywood big-wigs amongst his clientele.
So what’s really changed? “The well-travelled Indian has become a food connoisseur and wants to get unusual international cuisines onto their wedding tables. The menu that is sent across to the client has almost all the food options that one can think off. Mostly youngsters get back to us with more ideas and suggestions and on the day when the menu is decided, we as chefs have a tough time keeping up with the demands from clients,” says Chef Anees Khan, Founder and Chef of Star Anise Patisserie and Star Anise Fine Foods Pvt. Ltd, who has catered for a myriad of clients ranging from major industrialists to prominent NRI families.
Not only do people want the best of organic local produce, but the best of exotic ingredients are flown-in from around the world too. “Sometimes, the client himself tries to source out ingredients from Middle-East and neighboring countries. For example, a client wanted Kunafa (Middle Eastern dessert) to be made for his son’s wedding, as most of his guests were being flown from Dubai. However, it turned out to be a tall-task for us to source so much (good quality) Kunafa and the cheese locally. Hence, we had to request the client to help us source the ingredients from Dubai which was done the very next day,” elaborates Chef Anees.
Chef Sandeep Pande, Director of Culinary for Renaissance and Fairfield properties in Lucknow, points out that in India, unlike the West, families plan ‘shaadis’ with functions than span over a few days, as opposed to the Western concept of just the one-function-wedding. “Taste and showmanship rules,” he tells me. “Once for a wedding we had a chai maker from Jodhpur, ingredients from Thailand, chefs from Kashmir and a Lindt chocolate kitchen from Dubai!”
It’s not just ingredients that are in the spotlight, but presentation too! Especially with everyone wanting to Instagram the perfect food picture or Snapchat a food story at wedding functions. A fact the creators of such food are only too well aware of. “We first serve dishes that can be captured, sometimes the lights are turned on a bit, the table de-cluttered and later the dishes arrive to be eaten – obviously these are the same dishes, but served twice,” says Chef Pande. It’s tedious, but as Chef Anees points out, “Food has always been eaten with the eyes first, so all this focus on presentation teaches you many new ways of presenting food that’s chic, uber-modern, yet authentic.”