-K Vasudevan (email@example.com)
April 16, Thiruvananthapuram – Catering, which was once into delivering food as per choices with moreover a client-specific needs and with traditional cuisines have now made a tremendous shift to what is now seen as the ‘domination’ of Arabic, North-Indian, Italian dishes that is all set to welcome the guests across Kerala irrespective of the demography.
Spot preparations, wide varieties of cuisines and welcome drinks, sharp fall in catering orders have now led to catering units to devise and strategize ‘smart’ and feasible options to serve healthy and clean food at affordable rates. Most catering houses did not have to look into a wide variety of menus when it came to a reception, a house warming ceremony or a birthday. The caterers always had a set of traditional authentic dishes – non-vegetarian and vegetarian that had a special place in the dinner tables.
However, post-covid pandemic the food consumption pattern of an average Malayali witnessed massive changes with Middle-eastern and Malabar cuisines such as ‘Al-fahm’, ‘Thawa’, desserts etc dominating the dinner table spaces that was once occupied by traditional cuisines like ‘Biriyani’, ghee rice, ‘pulav’ and various vegetarian cuisines such as vegetarian pulav, cauliflower curries.
“During the 90s and the early 2000 we the people of Kerala witnessed the flourishing of the catering industry and people like me had started door to door delivery in 2011. Slowly when we started catering to elite functions like receptions, birthday celebrations etc we had served authentic Malabar biriyani and ghee rice in almost all functions. The recipe had continued until 2019 when the trend started changing drastically with various ‘Mandi’s, Turkish recipes, chicken items such as ‘Al-faham’, Chicken and mutton mandi having more takers like never before”, said Afzal, the owner of ‘Rahmaniya’ Hotels and Catering chain based in Ernakulam.
Traditional caterers based in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam who have been serving traditional ‘sadya’ (traditional Kerala meals with variety of curries) and traditional breakfasts says that the food consumption habits have not much changed, however the influence of North-Indian culture among the youths who had settled in metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi have started introducing ceremonies back in their hometown. The welcoming ceremony of guests and the festivities associated with it have witnessed the glaring shift in the changing culture. The arrival of a variety of deserts, salads, milk shakes, mixed-fruit juice combinations have more takers than how it used to be earlier where the guests who arrive directly wish the couple and move to the dining tables.
“These days thanks to the presence of social media and an interface called “event managers”, the stress is more on the ‘visibility’ than quality food at affordable rates. Since the pictures of such events are going live on social media, the stress is not on the quality and hygiene of the food, instead it is on the showmanship and gimmicks”, said Raji Suresh, the owner of ‘Anandham home catering’, a well-known catering organization that is headquartered in Thiruvananthapuram.
With its roots in a classic Yemeni dish – the mandi – the Kuzhimanthi biriyani is all the rage in Kerala. In fact, it is the only dish on the menu of Al Reem at its three branches in and around Kochi. They serve it with mayonnaise, salsa and salathar, or salad, on the side though, in Yemen, it is served with tzatziki, a type of cucumber raita. Various kinds of Yemeni cuisines have become an instant hit among the caterers.
Arabic food and Yemeni food joints have spread its wings across north kerala and central kerala. A drive through the highway from Kannur to Kasaragod and from Kozhikode to Thrissur gives a picture as to the demand which has generated among the youths for Mandi’s and Turkish Kebabs. Meanwhile, many well established catering houses have complained regarding the quality and hygiene of the ‘new-age’ catering houses that have flourished post Covid pandemic.
Calicut Taste catering and events is a partnership firm owned by Hashim and Shihabudheen “The biggest challenge now that has arised is the arrival of a large number of small sized caterers who have managed to start food joints without the adequate licenses. The quality and the hygienic factors are the most concerning issues here. Many such joints have been asked to shut down recently by the food safety department. This has indeed affected people like us who have been working for years following the norms and protocols after gaining the confidence of the people here”, said Hashim, owner of Calicut Taste Catering and Events.
“Spot cooking is the new word now. Earlier days the client came up with a single order or a common order where we had a set of food items. Now the variety is so diverse that even for welcome drinks there are 7 to 10 choices. People have more and more choices now”, Hashim added. Post Covid has also witnessed a major dip in the orders issued in main cities across kerala. Earlier when there used to be 2000 to 2500 orders for a function, the number has seen a substantial drop. Many point out that financial constraints and the need for privacy among family and friends gathering has become a norm.
“The orders that have been made have reduced substantially. There could be many reasons for this reduction. Earlier in our Cochin unit there used to be 2500 to 3000 orders on an average function that used to happen. That has now reduced to 1000 and 1200. The difference is stark, hence we have to evolve with the changing times”, he said
Anees, Royal Catering Service feels that “The biggest change we have witnessed off late is the downsizing of the orders unlike earlier days where we saw 2000 to 2500 orders for a function like reception and party’s. People now likes to make all functions small and a more private affair post covid. This is not essentially due to financial constraints. But this has become a norm now”. As per chefs and hoteliers there are various reasons for the emergence of the so-called Arabian cuisines into our dinner tables. One reason is the large-scale coming-back of Keralites back to their hometowns from the Gulf region and other regions of the middle east after the Covid induced lockdown had a cascading effect on the economy.
“After 2020 and especially after Covid pandemic, there has been a dip in the number of catering orders. Earlier if for a marriage or a reception if there were 1400 1500 people now it has come down to 800 to 850. People are reluctant to spend money now. This could also due to the financial burden post pandemic. Due to this we are also affected”, Sujith, owner of Nakshatra Caterers, Ernakulam concludes
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