There has always been this gulf between farmers and chefs, because of which farmers have been unhappy, and in the rush of pleasing diners chefs never really cared about.
Limited to just the stove, fenced by the 4 corners of a kitchen, not much view outside, pressured by the bosses, hushed by the Purchasing Officers.
Really the chefs could be so ignorant, but whose fault is it? They’re just doing what they’re told to do.
Farmers may feel hurt, but who listens to chefs? Is there a chefs’ association? Who is ignorant?
Well when tourists come, some wish to eat the food they have back in their country.
All of this is so contradictory. It’s like adding a positive 2 with a negative 2; what do tourists want? Do they want to eat the destination or their own food?
Well if tourists want to eat their own food, give them the food, but substitute imports.
I guess this is the key to substituting imports. But then, one should bear in mind that substituting imports may not be taken well by foodies, and it takes skills to make a substitution without taking away the essence of the food.
A few years ago, I went to an Indian Restaurant in Martintar, ordered ‘Palakh Paneer’ and they substituted it with a local veggie called ‘Chauraiya’ (Amaranthus viridis). Really, that Palakh Paneer did not have the same taste as the original recipe, and I ended up being disappointed..
So am I a foodie being ignorant? I don’t think so. To my knowledge, there is fresh Palakh being sold at Lautoka market every Saturday morning. You just have to go early and see who is selling it.
Really is it that hard?
Chefs are not wholly to be blamed. It also comes down to the people along the food chain who are cutting costs and increasing profits. But the reality is that food is not just a business. It’s about the people, the country and its culture.
We can preach about chefs’ ignorance all day, but what about the farmers? To ensure that their product is used in the kitchen, they should produce quality food – both crop and livestock.
To be honest, it’s hard to trust some farmers because they sell products of poor quality at an expensive price and do not feel apologetic about it.
If they really want the chefs to consider their products, they have to think and produce quality.
In one of the sessions, a speaker had mentioned that farmers do not have enough income. But that’s not an excuse.
To produce quality food, all one has to do is to try to ensure that he or she is following good agricultural practices; irrigating the farm regularly, adding fertilizer, controlling pests and diseases etc. And I am not talking about expensive inorganic fertilisers from hardware shops.
If farmers really care, they can make use of their waste vegetables and turn it into compost. In a particular farm in Navua, cows are used to stone two birds at once. The cows eat all the weeds and their waste is used as manure.
Conversely, due to the fact that few farmers are deceitful doesn’t mean that others are same. One of the classic saying from elementary school comes to my mind here; a few rotten apples make the whole barrel stink. But we should not generalise. There are still farmers who are very committed to producing the best quality products from their farm, and others should follow their example.
So whose fault is it here? It’s pretty hard to tell, because this is a pretty complicated link which hopefully has been resolved here after the farmer-chef interactions. And I truly wish that the communication gap has been bridged and they will work together to revolutionise the food and tourism industries.
The picture below is a diagrammatic representation of the link between farmers and chefs; this is to basically sum up everything mentioned here. This diagram was created by Lopez Marac Adams. Be sure to follow him and to read his blogs.
Blogpost by Avneel Abhishay, Social Reporter for the Pacific Community AgriTourism Week 2015.