In these unprecedented times, we have seen many vicissitudes and tried to adapt to a new normal. Thankfully, some things never change like the Indian Culinary Forum’s (ICF) endeavour to help deserving chefs thrive. The raging Covid- 19 pandemic has not deterred the community of chefs from the Indian Culinary Forum to celebrate their annual flagship event of Chef Awards and Knowledge Summit. Rather, the challenge of organizing the event under constrained circumstances has infused more enthusiasm and excitement in them.
Hoping to share a message of strength and positivity to the gastronomic world and to recognize and honour the chefs and their exceptional contribution towards the hospitality industry, the Indian Culinary Forum successfully organized The Annual Chef Awards and Summit. By observing the government’s orders and guidelines, it was carefully planned and curated to ensure a coronavirus-safe event.
Hosted to commemorate the International Chefs Day, the 17th Annual Chef Awards saw the presence of renowned master chefs and veterans of the hospitality industry at Pride Plaza Hotel, Aerocity, New Delhi. Chef Awards have been conceptualised to bring international acclaim to Indian cuisine and honour the chefs and their contribution to the hospitality industry and society at large. The evening witnessed several veterans as well as promising chefs who competed for the coveted titles.
As part of the 17th Annual Chef Awards, ICF also organised the 8th edition of Knowledge Summit which witnessed the participation of the stalwarts of the Indian hospitality sector resulting in knowledge building and thought leadership. The theme of this year’s summit was “Exploring New Horizons and Challenges: Experts Perspectives on Opportunities During These Times”. The summit witnessed participation of aspiring chefs, hotel-management students and hospitality professionals from all over India, who discussed, debated and deliberated upon a lot of burning issues relating to the hospitality industry in the Covid times.
The summit was phased over four sessions. The inaugural session was done virtually by Anil Bhandari, a hospitality industry veteran and Chairman of the Organising Committee on the topic, Exploring New Horizons and Challenges: Experts Perspectives on Opportunities During These Times”. The second session was on Entrepreneurship and Chefs in the Post Covid Times by Celebrity Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, interviewed by Smitha Menon. He advises the aspiring entrepreneurs, “Don’t keep waiting for very big opportunities. Start small and build on it. Most chefs think that perfection is a virtue, but I think it can be a big impediment. Because when you say something is perfect, there is a lot of pressure from yourself, friends, family etc.
Gone are the days for launching anything big and with perfection. So, test and learn. And that’s the way to scale up. It gives you an opportunity to correct your course quickly. Don’t wait for perfection, because it may be too late.”
The third session of the day was a panel discussion on Skills Required by the Chefs - An Industry Perspective with Varendra S. Dutta, Rajan Bahadur, Sanjeev K Nayar, Mohammad Shoeb, and moderated by Rajiv Gulshan. The last session was on Future of Food through Sociological Lens by Vir Sanghvi. Sanghvi was interviewed by Dilip Puri, Founder & CEO at Indian School of Hospitality. The summit was curated by Indian School of Hospitality and co-ordinated by Dr. Chef Prem Ram, Joint secretary Indian Culinary Forum. Those who could not attend the event, also joined the Summit virtually.
Speaking on the occasion, Anil Bhandari, a hospitality industry veteran and Chairman of the Organising Committee ICF, said, “Despite the pandemic, the determination and enthusiasm of the chefs of ICF, is evident from the fact that they have gone ahead full steam to celebrate the 17th Chef Awards and the 8th Knowledge Summit. I am thrilled to see that the chefs who were working behind the scenes are in the forefront. They are setting new standards of excellence in the hospitality industry and inspiring more people to choose this as a career. He added, “Currently, the National Tourism Awards are given in the three categories. We suggest it should be increased to six categories. We have been requesting the Ministry of Tourism for the last 15 years to honour the distinguished chefs with Padma Shree Award. So far, 2 eminent chefs have been given Padma award but again it has stopped. I would request the Ministry of Tourism to take up this matter again to ensure competent chefs are given Padma award every year. It’s high time we must bestow our chefs with Padma Shree Awards just like filmstars, sportspersons, economists and various other fields are honoured, so why not the chefs every year.”
Chef Davinder Kumar, President Indian Culinary Forum also shared his views, “In these testing times of Covid-19, it was an overwhelming experience for ICF to have successfully organized the 17th Chef Awards and 8th Chef Summit. The challenge of organizing this event under constraints by circumstances has truly infused more enthusiasm and excitement in us. Digital platform and technology have been harnessed to bridge social distancing. Alongside the Annual Chef Awards, month-long activities have been executed this year, like ICF’S first cook-off series where Senior Masterchefs conducted amazing culinary demonstrations of immunity building recipes which were witnessed by thousands of people. The Chef Awards was instituted way back in 2004 and has evolved over the years, but certainly, the focus remains to not only honour and promote the fraternity of chefs but also encourage young talent to take up this profession, and at the same time raise the overall standards of culinary art in India by bringing it at par with international standards. We have all made earnest endeavours to bring our fraternity closer year after year and will continue to do everything possible for the betterment of the culinary profession. We sincerely hope that Indian culinary art gains more worldwide recognition and acclaim.”
Chef Vivek Saggar, General Secretary Indian Culinary Forum, opined “You can have a great career only if it's built on a solid foundation. The right training can take you places and therefore, the Chef Awards is not just a competition, it is an opportunity for chefs to learn about the modern techniques and mechanisms that are used in kitchens across the world. They understand the value of getting basics right even while innovating. The association has been giving due recognition to the unknown faces, who bring smiles on the faces of diners for 17 years now. By imparting improved education and organising grand industry-specific events, we keep moving one step ahead and set new benchmarks in the hospitality industry.”
As a build-up to the awards, four days’ culinary competitions, i.e. Trade Tests were held at IBCA Vikaspuri, New Delhi amongst the budding and promising chefs in 8 different categories. Over 60 of culinary artistes showcased their creativity and skills during these competitions. Notable and renowned chefs were the jury members in this year’s competitions, while Chef Sireesh Saxena was the organizing secretary under whom the competitions were also be supervised. The Chef Awards also honoured the industry veterans in six other sought-after categories. The winners were selected by a panel of an esteemed jury.
The following are the winners of the 17th Annual Chef Awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award: Chef Arun Agarwal
Golden Hat: Chef Arvind Rai of The Ashok, New Delhi
Silver Hat: Chef Vinod Bhatti, IKEA India Private Limited
Pastry Chef of the Year: Chef Tarun Kumar, Sunrise Victuals
Lady Chef of the Year: Chef Nandita Karan, The Lalit
Master Chef of the Year: Chef Setu Gupta, Le Meridien
Master Chef Kebabs: Chef Surender Singh, Le Meridien
Master Chef International Confectionary Award: Chef Manish Kanojia, Radisson
Master Chef Indian Sweets Award: Chef Dalbir Singh, Ashok Hotel
Master Chef International Cuisine Award: Chef Rajnish Rawat, Radisson
Master Chef North Indian Cuisine Award: Chef Mehboob Alam, Ashok Hotel
Master Chef Oriental Cuisine Award: Chef Nima Tshering Lepcha, Radisson Blu
Master Chef Baker Award: Chef Narendra Singh, IHM - Gwalior.