The culinary scene in India is booming with new restaurants, pop-ups and collaborations that have gone beyond mere sit-down dinners. Whether you’re going to a fine dining restaurant or heading for a casual dining scene, bringing an unforgettable experience to the diner has become the prime focus of every culinary venture. With travelling to different destinations becoming more accessible, restaurants are aware of their guests’ discerning and evolving palates. 2023 saw international chefs coming down for pop-ups and meet-and-greets, Nikkei cuisine coming in hot, foraging of local ingredients and regional cuisines taking centre stage, and international chains coming to India. Now, we are also seeing the rise of Mexican flavours, and Tequila and Pisco cocktails on menus. There’s lots to watch out for this year. We got in touch with 10 chefs who weighed in on the food trends of 2024.
1. Hussain Shahzad, Executive Chef at Hunger Inc. Hospitality for The Bombay Canteen, O Pedro & Veronica’s
Fine Dining Minus The Rules (More Approachable & Fun)
“Traditionally associated with formal settings, contemporary fine dining establishments will redefine their approach. The emphasis is on offering a casual ambience while delivering exceptional cuisine, allowing guests to enjoy an exciting culinary experience in a warm and friendly environment. Innovative menus incorporating familiar elements, showcasing the chef’s skill in elevating well-known flavours. Open kitchen concepts provide transparency, allowing diners to witness the culinary process and fostering a connection between chefs and guests. Service styles are evolving towards a more informal and engaging approach, contributing equally to creating a memorable experience,” Chef Hussain shares.
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Rediscovering Regional Rice Varieties
There is a noticeable trend where ingredients indigenous to specific regional diversities are taking centre stage. “Odisha’s culinary gem, Kai Chutney, a condiment made with red weaver ants, recently earned the prestigious Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Similarly, the culinary world is witnessing a refreshing shift towards embracing lesser-known varietals of rice and lentils, with many of them securing coveted GI tags. This movement goes beyond the ubiquitous Basmati Rice or the commonly known regional rice varieties such as Gobindobhog from West Bengal. The spotlight is now turning towards the diverse array of rice varieties that often remain in the shadows. For instance, India boasts a rich tapestry of rice varieties beyond the mainstream options. It’s high time that these hidden gems receive the attention they deserve. These lesser-known rice varietals not only contribute unique textures and flavours to dishes but also play a crucial role in preserving the agricultural biodiversity of the region,” he says.
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2. Chef Regi Mathew, Culinary Director & Co-Owner, Kappa Chakka Kandhari
A Spotlight on South Indian & Northeast Flavours
“There will be a spotlight on South Indian delights from Kerala and Karnataka, along with the rich tapestry of North East cuisines from states like Nagaland. This culinary evolution signifies a departure from the conventional and an embrace of the diverse and unique offerings each region brings to the table. The spotlight is now on the micro nuances of each locality, uncovering unique spices, produce, and culinary techniques,” the chef shares.
3. Tarun Sibal, Chef & Entrepreneur
The Resurgence of The Grazing Table/Back to Brunch
“The act of people gathering around food creates a charming spectacle, fostering a sense of togetherness and camaraderie. The vibrant tapestry of flavours and textures on a Grazing Table or during brunch not only satiates the palate but also becomes a focal point for social interaction. It transforms the dining experience into a joyful celebration, where the connection between individuals is strengthened through the shared appreciation of delicious dishes,” Tarun shares.
Embracing The Utilisation of Premium & Craft Alcohol in Cocktails
A trend the chef eagerly anticipates gaining momentum this year, he shares, “As consumers, it’s increasingly important to be conscious of the specific products comprising the cocktails we order, as this choice can significantly enhance the overall drinking experience. Consider the Paloma—a cocktail that undergoes a remarkable transformation based on the quality and uniqueness of the chosen Tequila. Opting for a premium or craft Tequila introduces nuanced flavours and complexities, elevating the Paloma to a heightened level of sophistication. This trend encourages consumers to explore and appreciate the diversity within a single cocktail by making deliberate choices about the spirits used.”
4. Rahul Gomes Pereira, Chef & Partner at Passcode Hospitality
Smaller Dining Rooms & Chef-Driven/Cuisine-Agnostic Restaurants
“Besides foreseeing the rise of local and regional ingredients, the chef shares, “We will see an emergence of smaller dining rooms and a lot more chef-driven restaurants (micro restaurants), experiential in nature, cuisine agnostic and true to what the chef wants to cook.”
5. Chef Manu Chandra, Founder & Partner, Lupa
The Rise of RAW
“With Crudos, Carpaccios and Ceviches (dishes usually featuring raw ingredients) making their way onto more and more menus across restaurants, there is a growing familiarity with trends influenced by Japan and even Peru. Better supply chains and more mindful treatment of ingredients have made it easier than ever for Chefs to express their renditions of these flavours. This will only proliferate and become more mainstream in 2024,” Chef Chandra explains.
A Reshaped Concept of Multi-Cuisine Restaurants
“Influenced by the well-known concept of running menus featuring various cuisines under the same roof have taken a new meaning altogether and gained traction in the recent past. Not very dissimilar to what I had put together with Monkey Bar and Toast & Tonic, which at the time seemed to be a bit of an outlier, has become a crowd favourite across the country and is only growing,” he adds.
6. Raveena Taurani, Founder & CEO of Yogisattva
Fusion Dishes With A Strong Indian Flavour Profile
“Something that connects you to the Indian palette but is a modern representation of a dish. For example, in my South Indian Style Avocado Toast recipe – the base has a Sambar-flavored Hummus, topped with Avocado and a tadka of Curry Leaves, Mustard Seeds & Methi Seeds.”
7. Chef Ruby Islam, Head Chef, Manam Chocolate
Indian Household Pantry Ingredients On Chocolate & Dessert Menus
Chef Ruby believes that Indian ingredients will seamlessly integrate themselves into newer dessert experiences. “Coconut, Curry leaf, Adrak Chai, Caramelised Popcorn – elements of our daily household pantry will take centre stage in crafted dessert menus. Pastry Chefs, Chocolatiers and Craft Chocolate Makers will move from renditioning just classic French, American, German or Russian desserts to creating desserts that are inspired by childhood memories, mother’s recipes, authentic to our palate and relatable to Indian consumer preferences. At Manam, we have the Adrak Chai Macaron made with Masala Chai infused 45% West Godavari Milk Chocolate Ganache, Chakkarakeli Banana Soft Serve made with ripe uniquely sweet & starchy Chakkarakeli bananas from Andhra Pradesh, and a sweet Curry Leaf Shortbread buttery cookie made with craft chocolate with the unique savoury bitterness of fried curry leaves,” she elaborates.
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Craftspeople Coming Together
“Moving away from proprietary foods, craftspeople in the culinary world such as coffee, cheese, chocolate, wine, and nuts will work closer together and innovate with a big focus on traceability and sustainability with regards to ingredients. One of my recent collaborations was working with a coffee expert to extract the fat of coffee from Arabica grown in the Eastern Ghats and infuse it in 69% Dark Malabar Chocolate beans. Similarly, using milk sourced from farmers who adapt to processes that help retain nutrients in milk,” she adds.
8. Abhishek Joshi, Head Chef & Co-Founder at We Idliwale Barroom
Celebrating Vegetables and Vegan food
“At We Idliwale, we celebrate the sweet potato. It’s grilled, it’s fried, it’s braised in a majige huli and they are all delicious. It’s also rooted in our culture and our cuisine and is not something made just to accommodate a certain audience. And they are all as regional South Indian as they get.”
9. Chef Adwait of INJA, New Delhi
Emphasis on Global Flavours and Third-Culture Ingredients
There has been a noticeable shift towards embracing global flavours and incorporating third-culture ingredients into culinary creations. “Chefs from diverse backgrounds, working in various parts of the world, have been instrumental in introducing their unique flavours and ingredients to global cuisine. This trend is exemplified by restaurants like Ikoyi, which offers a contemporary take on sub-Saharan West African cuisine. The fusion of different culinary traditions creates a rich tapestry of tastes and textures, providing diners with an immersive and diverse gastronomic experience,” shares Chef Adwait.
Hyper-Local Food Movement
As diners become more conscious of their food choices, the chef believes this trend will make a significant impact on the industry this year. “The hyper-local food movement is gaining momentum as chefs and restaurants focus on sourcing ingredients that are grown close to their establishments. Hyper-local ingredients are characterised by their freshness and minimal environmental impact, as they travel short distances from farm to table. This movement not only ensures the use of the freshest produce but also promotes sustainability by reducing carbon footprints. Additionally, supporting local farmers and producers contributes to the growth of the regional economy, creating a symbiotic relationship between the restaurant industry and local communities,” he explains.
10. Chef Mitesh Rangras of Tango Tamari
The Rising Trend of Peruvian Cuisine
As a cuisine that has caught the imagination of chefs worldwide, there are more Peruvian restaurants in the world than in Peru itself, according to Chef Mitesh. “Peruvian cuisine not only has the freshest ingredients, but it also has influences from around the world that have taken it to another level. The fresh Ceviches, the Chifa Cuisine (Peruvian Chinese), Nikkei cuisine (Peruvian Japanese), The Pisco and the indigenous cuisine with 200+ varieties of potatoes and chillies, make it one of the most diverse and unique cuisines in the world. We are slowly getting exposed to the nuances of Peruvian cuisine here and I believe in the next couple of years, its popularity in India will go through the roof. Mexican cuisine has already arrived in a big way. I think Peruvian is next,” he shares.
Pisco, Mezcal & Tequila
“The surge in popularity of Pisco, Mezcal, and Tequila is set to continue growing this year due to improving availability. The natural ingredients and flavours have caught the global imagination. Also, it’s going to be a long-term trend much like Gin. We can start manufacturing these spirits in India,” he further adds.