Thursday, September 22, 2011: 01:34:04 PM

Food Processing Guest Column

The “Inconvenient” Truth - Chef Mayur Ramachandran, Movenpick Hotel and Spa

Processed foods have become a part of our daily lives, thanks to the hectic lifestyles and changing tastes

Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome! Freakin' Awesome!

I sit here pondering what to write on processed food. Playing the devil’s advocate -should I write on the positives, should I write on its negatives?

After almost an hour of brooding on the subject, I have reached to a conclusion. Positive or negative whatever be the scenario, one just can’t do without it.
Massive market demand
We grew up drinking Horlicks and eating Maggi for our meals, didn’t we? Every second commercial that we see is about processed food in some form or the other, powder, mixes, shakes - doesn’t it speak about the way we see things? “Convenience food” is the name of the game.
Processed foods have higher shelf life and to achieve this, a large amount of foreign ingredients and chemicals are added. However, it will be wrong to say that all of them are harmful for human consumption. The demand for processed food is however on the rise with lifestyles undergoing a complete change along with taste and eating habits. The reason why they are called convenience food is the amount of time they save for the cook as well those eating it.
In an exceedingly busy and monotonous routine, seldom do people have the time to venture or indulge into rational eating. Binging on butter rich chocolate to sodium rich fat chips, to MSG laden fries, burgers and steaks – who’s to blame? Is it the provider or the ones who are susceptible to this easy inclination?
As a chef, it is always a struggle to find the right balance in nutrition and taste. While the fresh ingredients are not easily available all the time, the processed counterparts do not boast of the same flavours, nutrition and above all taste. Ask the chefs and they’ll tell you, something that’s tasty isn’t always fulfilling in terms of nutrition.
As a purist, I believe in serving only the freshest and the best ingredients possible. Some thing I learnt from my chefs during earlier years on the job. The epitome of their success was always the freshness in the food and kept as close to replicas of the original taste.
But do I always have the luxury to create magic with the freshest of the available ingredients? What do I do when the next batch of berries is two weeks away? That is when I have to turn to processed food to salvage my situation. The demand is so increasingly immense that customers’ demands turn into an insurmountable task.
These are certain luxuries a chef can’t have these days. There is so much competition that one just can’t refuse or refute a wish. Well, the guests wish is our command, if we have to stay in the business.
Convenience as I said, at an affordable price is the game changer. Baked beans, salts, sodas, stock cubes, pre-mix sauces, the list is exhaustive. Ask a chef and he swears by them.
Going back to where I started, it is still difficult to comment whether it is good or bad, but I know I can’t live without them. Can you?
An interesting article I read on processed foods said- “Old people shouldn't eat health foods. They need all the preservatives they can get.”
The author is a renowned chef working with the Movenpick Hotel and Spa in Bengaluru

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