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Celebrity Indian chef, 50 others say no to GM foods in Australia PDF Print E-mail
© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

ImageSydney, June 2 (IANS) Award winning Indian celebrity chef Ajoy Joshi joined over 50 of Australia's top chefs Monday in their opposition to serve genetically modified (GM) foods in their restaurants.

The chefs endorsed a GM Free Chefs Charter, launched by the NGO Greenpeace here, which calls for thorough labelling of all food products containing GM ingredients and opposes the recent introduction of GM canola in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.

"I do worry about my 10-year-old son eating that canola. Hailing from an Indian background, where things are largely natural, I believe if you play with nature it comes back to you", says Ajoy, who migrated to Australia in 1988 with his wife, Meera, a qualified chef who runs the Nilgiri's restaurant business now.

"I have been concerned about GM foods for the past two decades and the growing interference of mankind with nature. As a chef, I should know what I am serving my customers and then it is up to them to make an educated choice," says Ajoy, who completed his catering course from Chennai in 1979 and worked for the Taj Group of Hotels before migrating to Sydney.

"Labelling on food products is extremely important. For example, as a cooking medium, I use polyunsaturated vegetable oil, which is made of many seeds. One doesn't know which one is genetically modified," says Ajoy, who is the author of three popular books: "Indian Home Cooking" (2003), "Ajoy's Favourite Recipes" (2004) and "Indian Regional Food" (2006), published by Lansdowne.

For the Joshis, the most astonishing experience of shopping for fruits and vegetables in Australia was their identical appearance devoid of any flavour. "We were astounded to find all tomatoes and cauliflower looking the same, even coriander. It just seemed so unnatural. In India, they were never the same and half the joy of shopping was selecting the best," Ajoy told IANS.

"I was even more frustrated to find that Indian food here was just curry in a hurry," says Ajoy, who has been devoted to showcasing the diverse tastes and flavours of Indian cuisine at the Nilgiri's for the past 13 years.

"As chefs, it is our responsibility to draw on the cornucopia of Indian cuisine and popularise the little-known regional cuisines. Indian food is not just Rogan Josh and butter chicken!" says Ajoy, whose plea to Australians is: "Please don't introduce Indian food to your child as `curry' as it would only scare him as something full of oil and chilli, which is not what Indian food is".

"Our unique philosophy is to change the menu every month, restricted to six entrée and six mains. In May, our menu comprised distinct cuisines served by the Mudaliar and Chettinad communities in the southern state of Tamil Nadu," says Ajoy, who has enjoyed the opportunity Australia offers to creative chefs.

His Saturday cooking classes go beyond a recipe to a hands-on experience in learning the technique and reasoning, for example, why in Indian cooking `whole' spices rather than ground ones are used. "I use the recipe only as a guideline and then cook in my very own style" he adds.

For the past four years, the Nilgiri's has been winning the New South Wales Best Restaurant and Catering Industry Award (Indian category) and has been Runner Up at the national level for the past two years.

As more and more Australians travel to India and experiment with cuisines from different regions across the country, Indian food is moving from "pub grub" to one of the top five cuisines Down Under.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any www.india-voice.com content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated. 

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