The weekend gone by was exemplary; we had not one, not two, but three (or wait, was it four?) food fests in the capital. For a city that talks endless about the opening of one new restaurant for a good few weeks, this was almost a sensory overload. But, like all things hyped, these too had disappointments. The food is never as good at these fests as it is when you try the restaurant where the chef is able to perform more ably in his habitat, with all the culinary comforts and commis at call. To transport all this to a field and to expect for all of it to go gravy is just too much to expect.
This is precisely what I experienced on my sorties to some of these fests. The food was average. Barring a few chefs/outlets who were trying hard to showcase their skills, the whole thing was a social hotspot to meet and hang, enjoy food and music, and maybe sneak in a drink or two too in the closed quarters. All in all, a great time guaranteed, but don’t be a food-snob while there.
So what do outlets need to do to equip themselves for such events? Here are a few tips:
1. Serve simple: So what if your signature dish involves flying in ducks from Beijing and having trapeze artists serve them? If it isn’t practical for a food fest where you have to serve 20 plates a minute, don’t feature it. Keep the menu simple and straightforward.
2. Serve quick: Sous-vide is a bad idea for a fest; you won’t have the time to ensure that every dish comes
out at the right point of cooking and at the right temperature. Avoid such elaborate rituals and go for the fun easy stuff. Deep fat fryer always seems to make the masses happy.
3. Pre-prep: Prepare everything you can and bring it along to reduce the final point burden of preparation. Make it more about assembly rather than trying to create from scratch. Time is of essence, and with the limited resources at hand, pre-prep is like a little cheat sheet that you are allowed to bring into the exam hall.
4. Man-up: Don’t be stingy with staffing. The entire kitchen brigade can’t come as they have a restaurant to run back home, but get junior staff to man the counters and attend to guests. Nobody minds a bit of a wait as long as there is someone who can assure them that all is on track and also gently apologise for untowardly delays.
5. Free nibbles: One stall offered me a tiny bite as I waited, like an amuse-bouche, but served up far from the settings of a fine-dining room. It was a surprise, a tasty crunchy and spicy mouthful, and helped distract me from the wait for my order. Not everyone can do this and certainly not for every order, but as and when possible, try and use these little pacifiers to buy time.
A food fest is more about width and less about depth. Keep that in mind and participate to showcase your talent and attract a crowd that has hitherto not known of your existence. But consider this to be the courtship period, so keep it short, sweet and exciting. Elaborate full courses can wait for when they actually turn up at your mothership outlet to try the full monty. The writer is a sommelier.