Soju Philip, the executive chef at the Kumbalam Ramada resort vouches for the incredible culinary and cultural significance of the local delicacies. The young chef who won the prestigious 'Gourmand World Cookbook Award' vows that the age of the fast food is over and that the world is warming up to a unique gastronomic culture based on local produce and dishes. The slow food movement which began in Italy, in 2000, has grown into a global initiative focused on encouraging people to stop eating fast food and turn to home cooked nutritious food made with locally sourced ingredients. In Europe and the United States of America, people began cooking a day's meal using the ingredients that are grown in their own gardens.
Soju says that people in Kerala too are embracing such a brilliant culture by celebrating our local produce. The grains have made a tremendous come back and the Indian hotels are focusing on plating up delicious dishes made with a variety of grains. The leading hotels and chefs have begun promoting healthy eating habits by serving dishes that reflect the traditional culinary aspects of a locality.
Soju Philip was awarded the 'Gourmand World Cookbook Award', often touted as the 'Oscar' of the cookbooks for his book 'Recipes on Ripples'. The chef, in this book, has vividly pictured and celebrated the unique culinary practices of Kuttanad. 60% of the pages in this book are dedicated to the amazing dishes that are unique to Kuttanad and 40% to explain the vital role that nature plays in designing the food habits. Soju has written the book in the genre of a travelogue. It features his journey through 7 bucolic villages of Kuttanad, explaining 100 amazing dishes and their recipes as well.
12 different varieties of locally produced vegetables too have found a place in Soju's cook book which impeccably depicts his journeys through the villages of Thakazhi, Chambakulam, Nedumudy, Kainakary, Kavalam, Mankombu and Pulinkunnu. There are recipes of mouth-watering dishes made with locally grown duck, lobsters, beef, clams and our own karimeen (pearl spot). It took 7 years for Soju to complete his cook book as he had to roam around quite a bit to find the authentic recipes of some unique and special dishes.
Soju thinks now people are eager to experiment with dishes by following the cook books rather than watching the cookery shows that air on television channels. A native of Adoor Kadambanadu, Soju has been treating the taste buds of hundreds of foodies inside and outside the country, for the last 25 years. Soju’s book bagged the coveted prize, beating cook books written by eminent chefs and food writers from around 120 nations. He received the award at a colourful event held last week.
The renowned chef says that the number of people opting for the culinary arts is going down even though the food and hospitality industry offers amazing career opportunities. In the 1990s, Bengaluru city had just 5 five star hotels. However, now, it has leaped to 75 five star hotels and more than 500 premium eateries. Soju added that though opportunities are aplenty, there has been a dearth of talented chefs who are passionate about cooking.