While most headlines scream of the world’s impending financial meltdown, India is thriving. Its economy is growing by 8 percent a year, and as an affluent middle class emerges with cash to spend, dining habits are changing across the country.
As a celebrity chef whose Khana Khazana TV show and Yellow Chilli restaurant chain is hugely popular in India, Sanjeev Kapoor is keeping a close eye on his nation’s tastes. «Here in India we have adjusted ourselves to more contemporary Indian food,» he says. «My restaurants are doing well in many cities of India and we serve contemporary Indian food. We have taken the traditional recipes and made them more ‘now’ as regards the presentation and naming. We have started using brown rice for some rice dishes too.»
With more disposable income and a greater awareness of global food trends, people aren’t just dining out more, they’re also looking for variety and quality. Western fast-food chains such as KFC and Pizza Hut are already a fixture in most Indian cities. But high-end restaurant chains like Le Cirque of Las Vegas, and Hakkasan of London are also planning to take a share of a food and beverage market worth over €210 million annually.
Meanwhile, Indian chefs who learnt new skills overseas are returning to India with a whole new menu of upscale international dishes. Chef Vineet Bhatia, who has won Michelin stars in London, opened Azok and Ziya, contemporary Indian restaurants in Mumbai that fuse traditional Indian flavours with a distinctly European twist.
«It’s interesting what is happening in India,» says Kapoor. «For the first time the middle class is comfortable spending money. If I look at my parents, they were saving because they started with nothing. People of our generation don’t have the insecurities that our parents had - they are more comfortable and more confident. That has changed the whole perception and opened a gap in the economy.»
Staff shortages are hitting the hospitality sector hard, prompting some restaurants to look outside the industry to train those without restaurant experience for life in the kitchen. Andrew Friedman finds out more.