Earlier this week, I was invited to be a part of ‘Food Camp’ by celebrity Chef Kunal Kapoor at the International Institute of Hotel Management (IIHM), Bangalore. It was an opportunity I grabbed with both hands, because why would a foodie like me miss a chance to learn from a celebrity chef himself?!
This post is a sneak peek into the event, and what I learned therein.
About Kunal Kapur’s food camp
Since the start of this year, Chef Kunal Kapur has been conducting food camps in hotel management institutes in different Indian cities. Each food camp is basically a workshop, where he trains students of the institute in the basics of molecular gastronomy, plating, food trends prevailing nationally and internationally, and the like. In his own words, ‘these food camps are my way of bridging the gap between actual trends in the culinary world and what these students study in their institutes, as part of their syllabus’.
A sneak peek into the food camp at IIHM, Bangalore
This week, the camp was held at IIHM in Indiranagar, Bangalore. I got an opportunity to be part of the event, in my capacity as a food blogger. It turned out to be one of the best events I have ever attended, very interesting and enlightening. I am sure the things I learnt at this food camp are going to stay with me and be of use to me, for a long time to come.
The approximately 2.5-hour-long session began with an introduction to Chef Kunal Kapur (no one needed it, of course!). Then, the chef came up on stage to talk about how food and the way we perceive food has changed over the course of time.
He talked about how plating is a skill that is crucially important for chefs these days, because everyone expects their food to look good.
Then, to a spell-bound audience, the chef went on to demonstrate three of the widely used approaches to plating food – Classic, Linear and Asymmetrical. He plated the same dish – chicken breast with sauce – using each of these three approaches, something that won him a huge round of applause.
Then, we were shown a variety of techniques to make sauces or purees look attractive while plating food. Using simple kitchen utensils – a juice glass, a spoon, a ketchup bottle – the chef went on to create awe-inspiring patterns on plates. So, so, so very interesting this was!
Lastly came the most impressive, the most interesting, the best part of the entire event – a session on molecular gastronomy!
‘Molecular gastronomy is the ‘in thing’ in restaurants in India and abroad these days. It is nothing but the use of science in cooking and plating,’ said Chef Kapur. ‘Through its use, you can change the form of various ingredients in your dish, as you know them. Through it, you can reinvent the way a traditional dish looks like – change the clients’ perception of how a particular dish is supposed to look like – without changing its taste,’ he added.
‘We drink orange juice. We can use molecular gastronomy to convert the form of orange juice, so people can eat it. This is but one example,’ Chef Kapur said.
Then, Chef Kapur literally spun magic on-stage, as he used substances like Soy Lecithin, Sodium Alginate, Agar Agar and Calcium Lactate to convert the form of certain ingredients as we know them. He converted orange juice into little beads resembling caviar, which burst in your mouth and create a burst of delightful flavour. He converted the imli ki chutney that we have all used a countless number of times in chaats, into foam that would stay put for some time and taste exactly the same as the chutney. He went on to create beautiful, beautiful spheres from sweetened curd and a thick, flavourful gel out of pomegranate juice. By this time, all of us were transfixed, riveted to our seats.
The session ended with a demonstration of Chef Kapur’s version of dahi papdi chaat, a dish that is no doubt delicious, but often isn’t very visually appealing. The chef reinvented dahi papdi chaat as we know it, with potato hummus, imli ki chutney foam, anar gel, and dahi spheres. Super-duper cool!
Overall, this was an event that I thoroughly enjoyed, an experience that I will cherish forever. Chef Kapur was such a sport, humble and sweet, answering questions in such a composed manner, open to sharing the knowledge of his years of kitchen experience with eager students. It made me look at the profession of a chef with new eyes, with new respect. This surely wasn’t an evening I am going to forget for a long time to come.
I can’t thank IIHM-Bangalore for this opportunity to get up close and personal with Chef Kunal Kapur. And, oh, I even managed a little one-on-one conversation and interview with the chef – coming up on the blog soon! Watch out for it!