In a pandemic-ridden world, a thick layer of consciousness is enveloping all aspects of our lives. And the wedding food industry is embracing this school of thought with open arms. Yes, we are talking about the farm-to-table food trend that’s doing the rounds in the Indian wedding scene. We speak to experts to find out what it takes to plan an organic, locally-sourced, and delectable wedding spread. By Rupali Dean
PLANNING THE MENU
Weddings in times of a global pandemic have undergone a dramatic shift. With a substantial reduction in the size of gatherings, the age-old buffet system has now been replaced by table setups. Moreover, Indians have become way more conscious of what they put on their plates, the consequence is a sudden spike in the demand for food made from local, home-grown ingredients. And this is why the farm-to-table trend has stolen the limelight.
The first step to zeroing in on a conscious menu is to scout for the right property that can facilitate a farm-to-table spread. “I base the menu experience around an actual farm, that is according to what the farm grows. If going to a farm is not possible, then I recommend identifying farms that you can source the produce from,” says Vikram Ganpule, Executive Chef at AnnaMaya, Andaz Delhi.
If you choose Amanbagh resort in Ajabgarh, Rajasthan as your wedding venue, you will be able to indulge in a scrumptious wedding meal made from locally-sourced, organic ingredients. This property uses three-quarters of the produce from its garden, in their specialities like Rajasthani thali, and all poultry is custom-reared in a free-range setting.
“We are proud of the fact that locally-sourced ingredients are integral to the cuisine at Amanbagh and almost all the produce used in dishes at the restaurant is grown in the resort’s organic garden. The seeds are planted in mid-July, and several varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown every year. We also have a reliable community of farmers to supply quality products whenever needed,” shares Ram Swaroop Kundra, Head Chef, Amanbagh.
INSPIRATION BEHIND THE MENU
Usually, a wedding menu is crafted after considering the couple’s preferences. For instance, chefs often take into account the bride and groom’s native places, favourite flavours, etc.
“The menu can be completely regional, in accordance to the couple’s native place, or it can be a beautiful blend of their grandmother’s favourite recipes with modern twists, to make it personal and customised. The concept of ‘tangled in love’ is my idea of having fun with the ingredients, where I do whatever I like. It’s a unique interpretation of what the families stand for, and every bite is a mixture of love and emotions,” adds Abhishek Basu, Executive Chef at JW Marriott Juhu, Mumbai.
Similarly, Chef Ganpule likes to uphold the couple’s preferences while shaping the menu for the D-day. “I cook an exclusive dish for them, as per their tastes, so that they can indulge in it while performing all the rituals,” he says.
SOURCING THE MENU
The wedding menu often reflects what the families stand for so that the food served is remembered for days to come. Therefore, to decide the menu and where the ingredients will be sourced from, it’s very important to first understand the couple’s story and the likes and dislikes of their families.
“We have farmers growing traditional and unique ingredients in Mumbai and other parts of India, which makes it easy for us to source fresh, local, or gourmet ingredients. It allows me to create both contemporary as well as traditional menus, and even blend the best of both worlds. We work with farmers from Kochi to Chikmagalur, Uttarakhand, Baganapalle, Bengaluru, and more,” Basu informs.
Moreover, the government’s ‘Vocal for Local’ movement has been inspiring chefs all over India to prepare dishes with local seasonal produce. One of the best ways to discover local produce is by visiting a farmers’ market. “Organise a field trip to the farm and spend a day there, acquainting yourself with the minute details of the product, like the season in which it grows, the way it is nurtured, etc. If time permits, request the farmer to grow a particular crop exclusively for you and then design the wedding menu around it. This would be an extraordinary experience,” suggests Ganpule.
On the other hand, Chef Kundra likes to handpick spices from the famous spice market of old Jaipur. “When it comes to sourcing vegetables and meat, we have our organic farm and an Ayurvedic garden,” he further adds.
PLATING THE FOOD
Never go overboard with plating. Let the natural flavours, textures, and colours weave their magic on the plate. Selecting the right plate can be a gamechanger too. Also, the sequence in which the dishes are served can make a big difference. Make sure that the dishes flow into each other.
Ganpule says, “The portion sizes can gradually increase, flavours can transition from mild to strong. This can be followed by a palate cleanser, and eventually, the meal can be wrapped up with desserts. Choose a particular cuisine and relish its authentic flavours rather than combining all flavours in one dish. Lastly, timing is key in plating and always be prepared in advance, to get the food right at the time of service. This will not only ensure that the food is served at the most appropriate temperature but will also save it from being over-cooked.”
Basu further feels that no matter what kind of cutlery people go for —be it thalis, banana leaves, or lotus plates, it’s very crucial for them to be as synchronized as an orchestra.
“Every detail of the dish must be well-curated with a lot of passion and attention to detail so that the right colour and balance of flavours can surface seamlessly,” Kundra emphasises.
CHOOSING LOCAL BEVERAGES
The choice of beverage depends completely on the season in which the wedding is scheduled. The fundamental idea is to choose beverages that are infused with healthy and natural flavours, and for which there are an array of organic options available.
“Kombucha, kokum sharbat, and immunity-boosting drinks are in vogue these days. Seasonal ingredients like amla and jamun also add up to the local selection,” affirms Basu.
OPTING FOR LOCAL CATERERS
The benefit of booking local caterers is that they are familiar with the area. Their experience and inputs can positively impact the overall management of a farm-to-table wedding menu. However, some chefs prefer their own team and the farmers of the country for an occasion like this.
FUTURE OF WEDDING MENUS
Indians are embracing the tenets of sustainable living more dynamically now. Brides and grooms are choosing quality over quantity, and this reflects vividly in the way wedding menus are being planned today. Moving forward, local and sustainable food choices will form the base of most Indian wedding menus.
“Farm-to-table concept keeps one at bay from conspicuous consumption and food wastage, which is a common sight at weddings these days. It simply brings us closer to the idea of sustainability,” concludes Ganpule.