The news that chefs will be included in contention for Padma awards has been hailed by one and all in the culinary industry in India. It took us a few years to take Indian food abroad but it has taken us 68 years to recognise the efforts of the people who cook food in India. We have no issues with the government recognising people from other walks of life, but why was culinary art neglected all these years?
Chefs are looked down upon in India and the fact that there was no recognition for the profession was adding fuel to the fire. I welcome this initiative taken by the Union government. It will bring the much-needed dignity to this profession and one will see the results in the years to come.
The world has recognised us, Indian chefs, for our efforts and creativity. India is famous for its culinary delicacies worldwide and the people responsible for it are chefs. The media lauds us at international forums. We please thousands of foreign delegates with delicious food. Cuisine diplomacy magnifies culture, food in foreign countries. We, the chefs, accompany the prime minister and the president to world summits where food plays a major role. Food, in fact, has played a very important role in improving India-Pakistan relations.
Indian cuisine is complicated and it takes a lot of time to be a good chef here. The variance of our cuisines, from north to south and east to west, is enormous. Every few kilometres the food and the recipe change. We are a vast country of 25,000 recipes, known and unknown. Our culinary exploits begin under the attentive eyes of our mothers. Once you join a hotel as a chef, regular fine-tuning is needed. A great chef should have tremendous passion for food and cooking. Young chefs should be constantly encouraged to cook well and experiment. To stay on top, a chef has to prove regularly why he or she is the best.
Indian food is fast becoming popular all over the world but not at the pace with which it can match the Chinese or, for that matter, the Italian. We need to catch up. We need many more talented chefs.
Bestowing Padma on chefs will bring recognition to the field. It will attract more people to this trade. We can export our cuisines and make our country a food destination and eventually help in food tourism. After all, it is a billion dollar business. Experience India or Make in India brands going places will help culinary industry of the country. I believe that we will be able to develop our cuisines in a more systematic manner and bring out the best talent in the country in the years to come. Passion and creativity will be boosted from now on. We should recognise the culinary artists and master chefs who have put in their lives for the great profession. And, well, I am sure the right people in selection committees will choose the deserving chefs for Padma awards.