Have you ever played one of those simulation games, where you play as a tiny character who runs a cafeteria? You go around collecting orders from the customers, prepare the food, and serve it before you run out of time. Now, imagine having to do that in real life. When you put two and two together, there is a moment of enlightenment when you realize why the Department of Culinary Arts, calls its food fests simulations.
The BACA students have been periodically organizing simulations, where everything, right from coming up with the theme, planning the menu, marketing and selling the tickets, to even preparing and serving the food, is done by the students. Besseha was one such simulation held on the 13th of April, at the Dept. of Culinary Arts.
When asked what Besseha meant, Suruchi Kaloti – the Simulation Head of the project explained, “Our theme this time is based on the Moroccan cuisine, and Besseha stands for ‘bon appétit’ in Moroccan Arabic.” She then went on to tell us about the carefully chosen seven-course menu, consisting of a welcome drink, an amuse-bouche, a soup, starter, sorbet, main-course, and a dessert. (If you’re feeling as clueless as I did then, about what an amuse-bouche is, it is a term for bite-sized appetizers.) In this case, it was a dish called Kisra, which contained slices of traditional Moroccan bread served with three different dips, each made from pumpkins, carrots and aubergines.
“Planning a simulation does involve a lot of work. The first thing we do is coming up with a theme, and planning the menu accordingly. The students get to make their own submission of ideas, and we choose the one with the most number of votes as the theme. Then over the course of a week, we try to refine each of the dishes on the menu, to suit it to the Indian palate.” – Siddhi, a BACA student.
“While selling the tickets, we make sure to ask the guests if they have any kind of food allergy, or special preferences, and duly note them. Specially prepared, modified versions of the dishes are served to them.” – Raghav Gupta, Marketing Head.
We were then given a tour of the kitchen, the bakery, and the garde manger. The bakery was a sight to behold, with gigantic refrigerators, ovens, jars and bottles of baking essentials, and a sweet aroma wafting through the air. The baking team focused mainly on preparing the dessert, which according to them was the highlight of the menu.
The insanely intricate dish, consisted of the traditional Samsa (Tunisian almond fried phyllo pastries), served with cardamom flavoured ice-cream, lemon meringue, apricot coulis, and a dried cake containing rose petals. When we asked the Bakery Head, the silly and clichéd question about how the preparations were going, “Perfectly smooth” was the two-word reply we received from a grinning Shashvat Gupta, a man of few words.
Another impressive aspect of the kitchen, was the effortless functioning of the Kitchen Stewarding Team, headed by Mr. Abhay Kumar Pandey. Not only was the team in control of the cleaning of the various kitchen equipment and crockery, it was also the one responsible for importing (from WGSHA) the stylish serving dishes demanded by the Service Team. Kangana Khurana headed the Service Team, whose members were in charge of guiding the guests to their seats, taking their orders, serving them, and clearing their tables.
Here’s what some of the guests had to say about their dining experience:
“This is the first time I’m attending a food fest. When I bought the tickets, I presumed it to happen in a chaotic and casual scenario, where there would be stalls and we would go around carrying our plates. But the fine-dining setting and decor, definitely came as a pleasant surprise. Had I known this before, I would have turned up in something much better than a t-shirt and shorts.”
“I have attended food fests conducted here before. They always present us with cuisines, one generally doesn’t get to taste anywhere else in Manipal. They never fail to impress, and the food served today was awesome. I’ve never tried Moroccan cuisine before, but if this is what it tastes like, I think I love it.”
In the end, what I found pleasing as a hygiene obsessed soul, were the laudably pristine conditions under which the food was prepared. Also, the welcome drink – Etzai, greatly impressed me. The menu card’s description of it, as a traditional Moroccan sweet drink made of green tea, flavoured with pomegranate and spearmint, made me skeptical about tasting the drink. As a resolute green-tea-hater, I have always been of the opinion that if Polyjuice Potion (Muggles, please forgive my Harry Potter jargon) tasted like something, it would be green tea. And to see the ever-so-unpalatable and nausea-inducing green tea in such a delicious disguise, was astounding.
To sum up, Besseha truly lived up to our expectations and the benchmark set by the Department of Culinary Arts, over the years. So, the next time they organize a food-fest, stop whining about the expensive tickets and treat yourself to a delectable meal.
– Photographer: Lochan Mulay
– PR: Vishal Bhattacharjee