The Annapurna Awards handed over to six restaurants in different countries of the world not only help recognise the chefs that are keeping the Bhartiya food tradition alive but at the same time celebrate the spaces that provide unity, opportunities and dialogue for Indian voices abroad.
Under a noble initiative, the Indian government, through the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR), a part of the Ministry of External Affairs, handed over the ‘Annapurna Certificate Award’ to six restaurants in different parts of the world serving authentic Indian food from years.
One of the jurists, Manjeet Gill, opened the evening by raising a toast to “Tradition, and opening doors to our cultural mosaic.” He elaborated on how every restaurant on the list is becoming a cultural ambassador. They are not only using recipes that are passed down but also providing economic support to the farmers who help in the production of the raw ingredients that make these recipes (some unique to Indian food preparation). These restaurants are also in the process of becoming hubs for cultural exchange. They are becoming centres of unity, opportunities and dialogue between Indian voices abroad, and between Indian and international voices, fostering a global community.
The restaurants awarded are Balaji Dosa in Sri Lanka, Ambar Indian Restaurant in the US, Indian Street Food in Sweden, Mumtaz Mahal Muscat in Oman, Namaste Indian Restaurant in Mongolia, and Naans and Curries in Costa Rica.
Awards were handed over by MoS, Ministry of External Affairs, Meenakshi Lekhi, in the presence of the president of ICCR, Vinay Sahassrabuddhe, guest of honour, MP and renowned actress Hema Malini, and Kumar Tuhin, Director ICCR.
These restaurants and the conversations happening here are also playing a pivotal role in enhancing tourism, especially cultural and culinary tourism for those who are seeking more immersive food experiences –in turn contributing to the economy. Vinay Sahassrabudhe, “Historic day as we are entering the culinary dimension. Bharat ki Ann parampara is the most popular in the world. We treat food as a divine thing.”
MoS, Meenakshi Lekhi talked about food being the oldest style of diplomacy, “How do we connect with friends, old and new? By telling them to join me for tea, let’s get a coffee”, as food is the best form of connection. Since time immemorial, civilisation, connection, and communication have evolved around food. The best part of the trophy being given to the winners—is modelled on an idol of Maa Annapurna stolen from Kashi around 100 years ago and only recently repatriated to India after much struggle. So, it’s symbolic in so many ways. It’s a symbol of our reclamation of the past, and a celebration of the legacy it stands for.”