Following the success of its first edition earlier this year, Tasting India: Farm to Table, a concept conceived with a view to popularising Indian cuisine, hosted its second edition at the Roseate Hotel, Aerocity, Delhi on Wednesday. The four-day event that concluded with a panel discussion, on how hotel schools can bridge the gap between students and farms, on Saturday, was co-organised by Sourish Bhattacharyya, the noted food journalist and blogger, and Sanjoo Malhotra, a Stockholm-based Make in India promoter.

Malhotra, co-founder, Tasting India: Farm to Table, says, “The Symposium seeks to engage opinion-makers in the country and around the world to shift their lens on India’s opulent gastronomical heritage, its potential to emerge as a culinary tourism showcase for the world, and its vast wealth of wisdom relevant to the current global debate on sustainable lifestyles.”

Bhattacharyya told Guardian 20, “Our emphasis is not so much on the act of eating food as in the blood, sweat, and toil that goes into making it.”

The symposium, on day one, began with the media launch of a national food donation initiative, “Save Food, Share Food, Share Joy”. The campaign was flagged off jointly by the FSSAI CEO, Pawan Kumar Agarwal; and Kolkata Knight Riders Captain, Gautam Gambhir, who’s very closely associated with the cause of food donation; and president of the National Association of Street Vendors of India, Arbind Singh. 

Under this initiative, a platform called Indian Food Sharing Alliance (IFSA) creates a network of the food collection agencies and brings together citizens, food businesses, corporates, civil society organisations, volunteers and government and local bodies in a coordinated manner to prevent food being lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial production down to final household consumption. The campaign also promotes food sharing among citizens and food businesses of the country.

Tasting India: Farm to Table this time had a galaxy of stellar speakers who took an interdisciplinary view of food, mapped its journey from the farm to table, and also talked about the challenges at every stage.

The global symposium on the country’s culinary tourism potential and sustainable food culture also initiated a dialogue on putting India on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list and adopting a smart food manifesto.

On the first day, Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI, highlighted that food waste and food loss are recognised as global challenges. Also, there is significant food loss and wastage in India. He addressed the need for an integrated approach of food recovery networks across India to combat food waste issues. He said, “This initiative is an effort to promote food sharing and recover surplus food in India. Through this initiative, several food collection agencies will be able to work uniformly towards one common goal of saving food and distributing it to the needy so that India is able to eradicate hunger problems.”

FSSAI also unveiled its two key campaigns during the event. One was “Street food vendor has a heart”, and the other one is titled “I too have a heart”. The former initiative is about encouraging street food vendors to donate every tenth meal to the needy, which will in turn fuel the “I too have a heart” campaign that focuses on regular food donation by food businesses and citizens. These campaigns will be managed through IFSA’s web-based platform. 

The event also witnessed the national premiere of Anthony Bourdain’s documentary on food waste, Wasted.

The second day at the India International Centre opened with a discussion on India’s culinary tourism potential and featured the Global First Lady of Indian Cuisine, Madhur Jaffrey, and the Director-General, Ministry of Tourism, Satyajeet Rajan. The event ended with a session on “Sustainable Business Models for a Sustainable Food Culture”, which was presided over by Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog.

Other key speakers were Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (who chaired a session on Strategic Innovations and Market Interventions in Organic Agriculture); and Dr Pushpesh Pant, culinary historian, TV presenter and Padma Shri awardee (who headed the discussion on putting Indian Cuisine on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage List).

“Our emphasis is not so much on the act of eating food as in the blood, sweat, and toil that goes into making it.”

Karnataka’s Agriculture Minister, Krishna Byre Gowda, had inaugurated a lunch prepared entirely with millets and then presided over a discussion on the way forward for “nutri cereals” across the country. The highlight of the discussion was the presentation of a white paper on millets by Shauravi Malik and Meghana Narayan of Slurrp Farm, a startup specialising in innovative value-added millet products, from breakfast cereals to dosa and pancake mixes. 

Other speakers included the ICCR Director General Riva Ganguli Das;  former high commissioner in the UK, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee; Kairali’s Managing Director, Gita Ramesh; brand strategist and TV commentator Sunil Alagh; hoteliers Priya Paul and Diwan Gautam Anand; restaurateurs AD Singh and Zorawar Kalra; scholars Bina Aggarwal, Shylashri Shankar and Ishita Dey; corporate food czars Jaspal Sabharwal and K.S. Narayanan; noted bloggers Kalyan Karmakar, Rushina M. Ghildiyal, Mohit Balachandran and Sangeeta Khanna; and the culinary world’s leaders, Chef Manjit Gill, Bill Marchetti and Manisha Bhasin.

The roster of speakers on the fourth day included farmers from Rajasthan, Punjab (including the country’s biggest potato farmer, Jang Bahadur Singh Sangha), Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, and Karnataka.