Renowned chef and television show host Ajay Chopra says India is "far behind" on international food standards when it comes to produce because standard is "just a word for Indians".
"We don't follow the standards through. As consumers we are okay with eating our 'paani puri' (a street snack) the way it is served. We have never opposed if one doesn't wear gloves while serving it or if the water is dirty. I don't blame the vendor or the government but the consumer.
"I was surprised to see some of the biggest food brands in the country with the most pathetic kitchens. Unfortunately, we're happy with the way things are and we're not ready to change," chef Chopra said in a conversation with IANS here on Thursday.
"When smaller countries like Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are managing to stick to food standards even on the streets, why can't we," he questioned, adding: "Quality food is what India needs at the moment".
Chopra was in the city at The Oberoi, from where he had began his career 14 years ago, as the brand ambassador for the frozen food brand Sumeru of Innovative Foods. Through a collaboration with Chopra, the brand has launched four new variants of their parathas like beetroot and "jeera" (cumin), turmeric and "ajwain" (carom seeds).
Known for his presence on the small screen through food shows like the "MasterChef India" and "Hi Tea", Chopra says he is often very "picky" about the brands he chooses to associate himself with.
"I'm very particular about giving my time out to any brand and endorsing it and hence I'm very careful about what I choose. I like to spend time with my wife and kids no matter how busy my days in the kitchen are," shared the chef humbly.
As a country, we are witnessing "progression" in terms of our thought and cuisine, he believes. "Indian food is going through that phase where we classify our food either as classical or progressive. Innovation in any developing country comes with a set of challenges, wherein some elements about our cuisines will not remain exactly the same," Chopra asserted.
Fusion food was one such element of innovation that the country has witnessed, although its meaning has not been "understood truly", he said.
"When the idea was supposed to be that one fuses two different flavours together, like the use of lemongrass in a 'makhni' gravy (a tomato and cream based gravy) for example, but people took it in a whole different direction. For a gourmand, fusion became irritating and for a consumer, it was confusing," the former "MasterChef India" judge said.
Indian food can receive a much-needed boost through the tourism industry, Chopra felt.
"Unfortunately, our tourism industry has not woken up wide enough. They're still talking about how beautiful our states are, but have not co-related tourism with food. For our country food is the second emotion. We should really be doing a lot more about spreading knowledge about our own food. The future of Indian food is the one where our regional food will take to higher places."