International Chefs Day: India's Top Chefs Share Their Wisdom

When you sit down for a meal outside, be it at a 5-star restaurant or a small roadside dhaba, it would probably not be wrong to say that your entire experience there is influenced by just one person - the chef. But all too often, we overlook the contribution these skilled professionals make to our daily lives, and how they shape the way the world eats. That’s why in 2004, the late Chef Dr Bill Gallagher created ‘International Chefs Day’ to honour the masters of culinary arts and their many innovative ideas. 

October 20 this year marks the 18th edition of this special day, and the theme this year is ‘Growing A Healthy Future’, which stresses the importance of teaching children healthy eating habits and encouraging them to be creative with food. In the modern world, conscious eating is necessary both for personal well-being and to ensure a sustainable future. So, this year’s theme is the perfect opportunity for these experts to pass on their wisdom to the next generation.

We spoke to some of the best chefs in the country to find out what they have to say about ‘International Chefs Day’, and what they want the younger generation to know about what constitutes a ‘healthy future’. 

Chef Sabyasachi Gorai (Chef Saby) - Consultant Chef and Mentor

Children are the future of every nation and we have this growing concern about over-processed food and food that is manufactured because in the last 25-30 years our lives have become – I won’t say ruined – but in the name of growing production, green revolution, feeding, hunger etc, we have revolutionised food but it has become mainly processed and manufactured and today we know that’s not really good for our health. So we’re trying to get our children to understand this and go back to the farm, go back to basics, go back to eating non-processed, non-packaged food that is absolutely connected to nature and hence sustainability and vocal for local takes centre stage. My message to young children is to eat as much natural food and avoid processed, packaged food. It’s not easy but it’s the only mantra I can say.

Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi - Celebrity Chef and Restaurateur:

It is important that we educate our children about the food items that are intrinsic to our traditions and cultures. These days, kids seem to be indulging in fast food and avoiding home-cooked meals. If not taken care of, this may adversely impact the health and well-being of children around the world. It is the responsibility of parents to teach them about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, as well as involve them in what goes on in the kitchen. This, in turn, will help them understand the value of food. Teaching kids about the importance of not wasting food and acquainting them with the contributions made by farmers, who work in the fields to grow grains and vegetables is very important. The same should also be taught in schools. 

Chef Oindrila Bala - Professional Chef, Former MasterChef Finalist, and Content Creator:

I think ‘growing a healthy future’ is an important initiative. While growing up, we had so many wholesome foods around us. However, all that has taken a back seat now, thanks to the junk food that’s available everywhere. Eating healthy is not just good for the body but also for the environment. The more green we have on the plate, the more colourful it becomes, and healthier. 

The significance of adding whole grains to our diet also should be reiterated more often. Millets have started gaining attention worldwide these days. Hailing from West Bengal, rice is what I consumed most. Only recently, I was introduced to millet. Since millet is packed with nutritional benefits, it should be included in kids’ diets. All this would help to plan a balanced diet for ourselves and our children.

Chef Tarun Sibal - Chef and Entrepreneur:

Sustainability in both cooking and consumption practices is what will enable a healthier future. It’s a combination of factors including how the food is produced, distributed, packaged, and consumed. Both customers and chefs have a role to play in conscious eating. In a day and age when guests are more aware and informed than ever, poor sustainability practices may turn their loyalties elsewhere. The onus lies on chefs to set sustainable food trends. We can inspire our guests to eat healthier and yet not compromise on taste. 

By championing holistic food programmes inclusive of plant-based options, and local and seasonal sourcing we can influence what consumers buy even for home kitchens as well as what they order when dining out.

What you eat and cook at home, what’s on your plate, and what dinner looks like will educate children. They should know what’s good for them and what’s better or what things should be done only occasionally. I, personally, get my son to cook alongside me sometimes, and while that’s happening I talk about why pancakes every day could be a bad idea.

Chef Pankaj Bhadouria - Chef, First MasterChef India Winner, and Content Creator:

Like in every other profession, chefs too, deserve to be respected and celebrated. Be it at a small roadside eatery or at a luxury hotel, appreciating the chef in the kitchen is important, and I see that happening today. Beyond praising how the food is served or presented, chefs should be appreciated for the constant efforts they make. 

As for the chefs, it is a reminder that they need to pass on their culinary skills and knowledge of food to future generations of chefs with the same commitment. They also need to instil a sense of pride in the new generation of chefs, because there are still a lot of people who are struggling to be a part of this profession, especially in a country like India where food is considered sacred. 

The focus should always be on cooking something beautiful and colourful by using a lot of vegetables. The idea of making it beautiful to look at while being healthy should be encouraged. 

Chef Vaibhav Bhargava, Partner at CHO, New Delhi:

When it comes to ensuring that all children and families have access to healthier choices, everyone has a role to play. Awareness is the key and access to fruit, vegetables, water and low-fat dairy represents great progress toward

the strategy of reducing kids’ intake of calories, fat, salt, and sugar from readily available options around them. Then be it restaurants or vending machines, we need to advocate righteousness for them. The future is theirs!

Chef Pawan Bisht - Head Chef at One8 Commune, Mumbai

Give your kids an apron and let them cook if you want them to eat more fruit and vegetables. The likelihood that our children will become healthy adults increases if we teach them to cook since they will be more knowledgeable about food preparation, culinary methods, and new flavours. More than ever, it is critical to raise awareness of the vital role that practical cooking plays in providing healthier meals to children, assisting them in eating better, and firmly establishing healthy food habits and diets as they grow.

Chef Rakesh Sethi - Corporate Executive Chef, Operations, South Asia, Radisson Group of Hotels 

The notion of healthy eating is changing. Artisanal products - those with labels like local, handmade, crafted, and rustic - are becoming more and more mainstream. While deciding on their choices, consumers use the information to look at the functional and health benefits of foods. ‘Tasty, healthy food’ has often been an oxymoron, but now that’s changing. Superfoods - like millets, moringa, and quinoa - which were earlier not very preferred are increasingly becoming popular on the high tables primarily because of their health benefits. 

There is also a growing appreciation for the intricate relationship between personal food choices and environmental well-being. Today, the world is talking about the organic way of farming, but traditionally we have been doing it for centuries. Our future lies in the past and today it makes absolute sense to go back to our roots. It is not only healthy but is also more cost-effective.

Chef Shiv Parvesh, Executive Chef, Indore Marriott Hotel

The food we eat has a direct impact on our health, and that’s something that starts from a very early age. What we eat as children can influence our health later in life, so it’s important to make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need now. Innovative food for kids is all about making healthy choices that are both delicious and nutritious. With so many unhealthy options out there, it can be hard to know where to start. By offering your children these healthier options, you can help them develop a taste for good nutrition. On this International Chef Day, it is our collective responsibility towards sourcing healthy ingredients from local markets to make good food for our young ones by being a little innovative and trying out recipes with a nutritional twist like multigrain pizza, ragi chips, beetroot dosa, whole wheat waffle with fresh fruit salsa to name a few. Let’s pledge for a healthily packed food, full of vitamins, protein and deliciousness!