On seeing a sculpture made of margarine, an oven made out of ginger bread dough or a beautiful 3-tier wedding cake whose tiers lean over at dangerous angles, the first question that crops up is, can these be eaten? Are these culinary marvels really up for the taste buds?
Those who witnessed Culinary Art India 2013 organised by Indian Culinary Forum (ICF) at the recently concluded Aahar International Food & Hospitality Fair - 2013, had the same questions in mind. As 300 chefs battled over four days to bag prizes in various competitions, viewers feasted with their eyes at their creations and went around clicking photographs before the delicacies could be devoured.
Day one was a day of chef skills as they, along with students of hospitality courses indulged in fruit and vegetable carvings. Watermelons and papayas were cut up to look like flowers, while profiles of Victorian women also showed up on some fruits. The competition of authentic Indian regional cuisine ran parallel where participants prepared mouth-watering dishes from different parts of India and presented them artistically.
This experience fell short as the second day had much more in store with three tier cakes in different shapes being displayed. Decked with dancing couples, champagne glasses, flowers and other fancy accessories, the cakes caught the attention of one and all. But the one that tasted the best was a simple dry cake of sponge and jam by chef Arun Diwakar from Radisson Blu, Noida. The handcrafted loud speaker shaped toppings made of chocolate made it all the more attractive.
Though the ‘butter and margarine sculpture’ competition was expected to be outstanding, it witnessed only one entry this year as compared to several last year. The sole entry was by pastry chef Deepak Nainwal from Oberoi, Gurgaon who made a sculpture of Greek God Bacchus and Adriane. “Bacchus is the God of grape harvesting, wine and wine making,” explains Deepak who is currently pursuing a course in Indian Painting and Heritage at Delhi College of Fine Arts. “Creating butter sculptures is a dying art in North India. It took me 20 days to complete the carving of this sculpture,” he adds.
This day also had appetizers and petite fours or pralines displayed by chefs. “One petit four made in the form of a small ladies purse with miniature goodies inside it, was extremely creative,” shares chef Daniel Koshy of JW Mariott, Bangalore, who was here to judge the competition. He adds that visual appeal and taste both were important to win the prize in praline category and those who made the dish too sweet, lost points as petit fours are supposed to be taken with coffee.
From these miniature crafts, the event moved to huge artistic showpieces of pastry and bakery. It was a delight to watch edible ovens, flowers and even musical instruments crafted out of a variety of delectable ingredients.
The final day saw live competition of making mocktails and dressing cakes kept the viewers enthralled. Even the Turkish cuisine competition was a hit with chef Gagan Deep Singh’s dish Iskender kebab (made of beef) winning him a gold medal. He served the dish with tomato sauce and yoghurt and Arugula salad with five dips.
What would have been a better way to end the event than with dessert which came last and began the wait for next year when ICF will be back with the best in culinary styles.