Kashmiri Morels & Bollywood Margaritas – Here’s What Guests Devoured At The Cannes Film Festival 2024


Every year, the Cannes Film Festival honours the work of the film fraternity at a global level. While the festival has become synonymous with red-carpet fashion from A-listers including Indian celebrities, the Indian culinary industry has also been getting its fair share of recognition there. 

Following a dinner service by Chefs Manu Chandra and Prateek Sadhu at Cannes Film Festival in 2022 and 2023 respectively, Chef Varun Totlani of Masque, Mumbai – which recently bagged the position of #78 in the 50-100 list of World’s 50 Best Restaurants – stepped in this year to present a dinner at the esteemed festival. This time, however, it was at the Bharat Parv hosted by The National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) on 15th May. This event offered a platform for the film fraternity to network, foster partnerships and showcase our country’s rich culture. So it’s no surprise that food also played a huge role.

Chef Varun Totlani

Godawan, the artisanal single malt whisky from Diageo India, marked its third year at the Festival de Cannes by collaborating with Chef Totlani. This collaboration featured an exclusive dinner for 30 discerning guests including actors like Taha Badusha, Pankaj Saxena from the Film and Television Institute of India, musician Sunanda Sharma, and Ambassador Javed Ashraf, among others. 


Chef Totlani created a 5-course menu inspired by various indigenous ingredients. The idea was to highlight the rare ingredients of India and celebrate India with its culture, people, and traditions. Guests devoured dishes that featured trout roe from Kashmir to cacao and gondhoraj lime from South India, among others. The cocktail menu also threw a spotlight on Indian ingredients and featured refreshing concoctions like Himalayan Old Fashioned (Johnnie Walker Black Label, Himalayan Multiflora Honey, Bitters), G & Tea (Tanqueray London Dry Gin, First Flush Darjeeling Tea, Peach, Soda), Bollywood Margarita (Maya Pistola Joven, Curry Leaf, Mango, Green Chilli, Bombay Spice Mix) and Buransh Hi-Ball (Hapusa Himalayan Dry Gin, Rhododendron Nectar, Lime, Soda), and more.


Ahead, we caught up with the chef to tell us all that he served at the Cannes Film Festival this year and what went into planning this exclusive dinner.

ELLE: Take us through the menu you planned at Cannes and what each dish comprised.

Varun Totlani: The first course highlighted Ladakh and Kashmir. The idea was to do momos and thukpa but in a cold, refreshing way to start the meal. The momos were not made with momo or dumpling skin but with a vegetable called jicama, stuffed with coconut malai. There was a salad made with singada (water chestnut) for vegetarians, and trout roe sourced from Kashmir with passion fruit juice infused with all the spices of thukpa for non-vegetarians. 


The second was a chaat-inspired course with corn and ponkh, featuring different textures of corn. At the bottom was a salad of butta marinated with three different chutneys – red chilli and garlic, rhubarb and tamarind, and mint green chilli and green apple – mixed with onions and raw mango covered with corn foam. On top, we added fried ponkh and marinated it with homemade chaat masala to add that crunchy texture. 

The third course was inspired by Khad (which means a pit) in Rajasthan. In the khad, we had turbot (a type of fish) or sweet potato marinated with black cardamom and saffron. It was wrapped in a nappa cabbage leaf. At the restaurant, we use a banana leaf but it isn’t easy to source that in Cannes. So we got Napa cabbage as an alternative, which worked in our favour because it is edible, so guests could also eat the leaf. We then layered it with Khadi and Jute. This was placed on the grill, where the steam would go inside and cook the meat and vegetables. It was served with Malabar Paratha and a kachumber of Kachri (a vegetable from Rajasthan and a cross between a cucumber and melon).

Black Garlic Pualo

The fourth course was the black garlic pulao featuring black garlic from the Masque Lab. It was plated in a way that looked similar to a ramen bowl, where the black garlic pulao was placed at the bottom, and the meat and garnishes were placed separately on top for you to mix all the components before eating it. For the vegetarians, there was Kashmiri morels, asparagus, fresh green Toor Dal, cherry tomatoes and fried onion, and for the non-vegetarians, we added lamb to this mix.

ELLE: Sounds delicious! What about the dessert?

VT: The dessert highlighted Indian cacao and it’s a dish that’s close to my heart. We served it inside an aged cacao shell with different layers. The first layer was an aerated milk chocolate mousse, the second was a chikki with cacao nibs and cashews, followed by the fruit. At the restaurant in India, we do a mix or depending on what’s available in season with lychee, longan berries, rambutan and custard apple because that’s what the cacao fruit is like texturally.

But here, none of these fruits were in season so we went to the market, and saw what would pair with cacao. The chocolate was the best and the strawberries looked good, a match made in heaven. So, we took the strawberries, marinated them, macerated them with Gondhoraj lime to bring that freshness out and added that. Then there was a cacao tuile and lastly a dark chocolate ice cream.

Indian cacao

ELLE: How was the response from the guests in attendance?

VT: The guests loved it. People who are not from India were experiencing these flavours for the first time. Though they’ve had Indian food, it’s mostly been commercial Indian food which is very different from what they experienced at the dinner. The response was phenomenal, even for a lot of Indians. After spending four to five days in Cannes and eating only Italian food and French food, they were happy to get flavourful and masaledar food.

ELLE: Masque does so many collaborations and pop-ups in Mumbai. What shall we expect next?

VT: I don’t want to give any spoilers but we are working on a crazy lineup and different events in Mumbai in our anniversary month, which is in September. Before that, there is going to be a little bit of travel abroad, but I don’t want to spill more beans.

- Lifestyle Editor


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