Tasting India Symposium Concludes with Sushma Swaraj’s Support for SWAAD: International Day for Indian Gastronomy
The Third Season of the Tasting India Symposium concluded on Saturday, December 15, with an endorsement of the idea of SWAAD: International Day of Indian Gastronomy by the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
In a statement to the Symposium, the minister congratulated Tasting India and said SWAAD, modelled after the International Yoga Day, was an idea “whose time has come”. Underlining the significance of the initiative, the minister noted: “Through this, India will extend an open invitation to the world to explore its myriad tastes and flavours. Today, the first step has been taken to forge the network that will drive SWAAD. I am confident that it would become an annual celebration of Indian gastronomy, awaited eagerly every year.” The statement was read out by Namrata Kumar, Deputy Director General, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
Another important initiative to emerge out of the Symposium is the Citizens’ White Paper on Gastronomy Tourism, authored by its co-founders, Sourish Bhattacharyya and Sanjoo Malhotra. The White Paper makes a strong case for the Ministry of Tourism harnessing India’s culinary depth and diversity to promote Gastronomy Tourism, citing the thrust given to the idea by countries such as Australia and Germany, which have much less to offer than India.
The Symposium was inaugurated by NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, who made an eloquent plea for “an inclusive, sustainable and nutritious food culture” that would help small and marginal farmers to raise their income levels. “India has a vibrant and diverse culture offering a fascinating variety of unique tastes, from the coast of Malabar to the Valley of Kashmir,” he said. “I am happy that Tasting India Symposium, which I have been a part of since its inception is taking firm strides towards encouraging and evolving a collective vision of a sustainable, nutritious and inclusive food culture.”
The CEO of the Food Safety and Standards Organisation (FSSAI), Pawan Agarwal, used the occasion to announce that the national food regulator will roll out 100 additional ‘safe street food hubs’ across the country on the lines of the one opened in September at Kankaria Lake, Ahmedabad. The FSSAI also proposes to replicate the Eat Right Mela, held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in the Capital this past weekend, in 40 cities and towns around India. This will make it the largest national twin initiative to uplift the public perception of street food in India, which provides employment to a million people and affordable food to millions of others.
The FSSAI partnered with the Symposium to hold the first-ever Indo-Nordic Food Policy Workshop, where a delegation from the Nordic Food Policy Lab and the Danish Food and Veterinary Administration, led by Mads Frederik Fischer-Moller, Senior Adviser (Agriculture), Nordic Council of Ministers, showcased the highly successful public health policy interventions made in the Nordic countries, and their FSSAI counterparts highlighted the achievements of the Eat Right Movement.
The high point of the Symposium was the very visible presence of international celebrities from the food and nutrition world. They included Claus Meyer, co-founder of NOMA (the world’s No. 1 restaurant till it shut down two years agon) and global philanthropist; Dr Harald Stossier, wellness guru and founder of the highly sought-after VIVAMAYR Clinic in Austria; Paul Newnham, director of the London-based SDG2 Advocacy Hub, who launched the Chefs’ Manifesto with the Young Chefs Association for Sustainable India; Vineet Bhatia, prolific chef-restaurateur and first Indian to be honoured with a Michelin star, who conducted a public cookery class at the Eat Right Mela; Colleen Taylor Sen, noted food historian and author of Fasting, Feasting: A History of Food in India; Asma Khan, author of Asma’s Indian Kitchen and founder of the celebrated London restaurant, Darjeeling Express; Romy Hardeep Gill, celebrated U.K. chef and radio and television personality; Johan Jorgensen, co-founder, Sweden Foodtech; Sujan Sarkar, acclaimed exponent of Modern Indian Cuisine and founder of Rooh (San Francisco) and Baar Baar (New York City); and Justin Horne, the young eco-chef and zero waste/circular economy cooking maestro from London.
Claus Meyer drew out the essence of the Symposium when he said: ” Tasting India is trying to address real issues with food by making all the stakeholders participate in discussions of this nature. Our ambition with NOMA had never been just to make it profitable, but to change the food culture and engage the stakeholders in the agenda. We re-define luxury by seeking out deliciousness with healthiness using the humblest ingredients.” Meyer’s words will help define the agenda of the Symposium as its organisers prepare the ground for the Fourth Season in December 2019.