New Delhi, Dec 31 (IANS) The year just ending has been a gastronomic delight for food lovers. Food festivals, street food, regional cuisine, TV food shows, pubs, cafes and the year-ending blessing - the return of Maggi. It's been a 'foodilicious' year!
Several cookery shows and competitions emerged, with the 'Masterchef' series remaining the favourite. The Australian edition of Masterchef Season 7 was one of the more popular ones. The Indian series of Masterchef Season 4, hosted by Chef Vikas Khanna, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and Chef Ranveer Brar, also came to an end this year with Nikita Gandhi as the winner, while Zee Khana Khazana reinvented itself as Living Foodz, the reincarnation presenting Chef Kunal kapoor's Pickle Nation take on the preserves of India.
The year also witnessed many chefs penning down their love for food - from Chef Vikas Khanna to Chef Saransh Goila, who wrote his first book - "India on my Platter", wooing readers with their appealing recipes.
The year also set a trend with many writers compiling their secret recipes of home delicacies in books. Maunika Giwardhan's "Indian Kitchen", Rukmini Srinivas's "Tiffin: Memories and Recipes of Indian Vegetarian Food", Zarine Khan's "Family Secrets: The Khan Family Cookbook" are some of the books that ruled Indian households with their easy and simple recipes.
The year will also be remembered by food lovers as one that set many a trend.
"Innovative comfort foods, Indian street food, big bars and lounges were the leading trend-setters in culinary world during 2015," Chef Raminder Bakshi told IANS.
Bakshi is a prominent culinaire who, in his 22 years in the industry, has not only worked in five-star properties but also set up food courts and multinational QSRs (quick service restaurants).
For Riyaaz Amlani, President of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and CEO and MD, Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality Pvt Ltd, it was a technology driven year in the gourmet world.
"The year saw a spate of technology start-ups and experimental gourmet ventures encompassing everything - from online/mobile ordering to chefs cooking meals in your kitchen; from food trucks serving gourmet delicacies to hassle-free table reservations," Amlani told IANS.
The year also witnessed a rise in healthy food habits with people becoming more health conscious.
"Readily available ingredients ruled the year. Organic and locally sourced ingredients were much in demand and with people becoming more health conscious, these were easily available in market," said Chef Sanjay Thomas, the F&B director at The Suryaa here.
For Corporate Chef Manjit Singh Gill of ITC Hotels, it was locally-grown products, healthful meals for children and natural and minimally processed ingredients that set the benchmark during the year.
"The word fresh was the key word of the year. It is nutritious and enriching. This way we reduce the carbon footprint and go green on all our menus," said Chef Abhishek Basu, the F&B chief at The Park.
The year also saw the emergence of regional cuisine.
"The focus was on the regional cuisine with fresh ingredients. This was the highlight of the year," Chef Basu added.
Chef Gill also thought that regional flavours should be given greater importance to reach out to larger masses, which is a rather complex task. Chef Thomas concurred.
"Our endeavor to promote regional flavours needs to pace up. Cookery shows and competitions can be one of the ways of reaching out to food lovers," Chef Thomas added.
During the year, Indian cuisine made a remarkable impact across the globe to the extent that it can also be said that Indian food is the flavour of the planet.
"Indian food has been a part of the culinary exploration in the West. Chefs of Indian origin are taking the flavorful cuisine around the world," said Amlani.
"Indian food is gaining popularity and is relished across Europe and Asia, as also in America. In fact, nowadays the admiration for Indian cuisine is comparable to that of Chinese or Italian cuisine," Chef Thomas said.
So, what stood out in the culinary journey for the year 2015?
"Foods that had got lost and are reappearing on plates today have caught my interest and attention, let's say like 'amarnath' or 'ramdana' or, for that matter, flaxseeds or 'alsi', a lot of forgotten grains like a variety of Indian millets," said Chef Gill.
For Chef Bakshi, it was Indian herbs and spices, while for Chef Thomas it was "healthy cereals like buckwheat, finger millet and pearl millet".
But, for legions of food lovers, the return in November of Maggi noodles, banned for six months while doubts about excess lead and MSG were cleared, was the best news of the year. Being an all-time savior, this two-minute snack brought happiness to many faces and peace to tummies.
"Yaaay," said a bunch of enthusiastic students in unison at a makeshift eatery on the north campus as the "chef" turned out a Maggi sandwich - noodles between two large pieces of bread.
So, what's going to rule the gastronomic world in 2016?
"Indian food in different formats - traditional contemporary, fusion, cafe or westernised, is going to be the food of 2016," Chef Bakshi felt.
"Forgotten local and seasonal foods stepped in a history of super health and their benefits will make a mark," added Chef Gill.
(This is a part of a series of articles from IANS that look back at the year that was for a variety of subjects, running up to the New Year. Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at email@example.com)