Unboxing culture through lunch

Six Indian women chefs are redefining how kids communicate through cuisine.
Chef Amninder Sandhu’s Mango Laddoo recipe as documented in an Indigrow Kids book
Chef Amninder Sandhu’s Mango Laddoo recipe as documented in an Indigrow Kids book

When Chef Garima Arora, the first Indian woman to win a Michelin star with GAA Restaurant in Bangkok, trained at Noma, then the world’s best restaurant, she was always asked to make a curry as a representation of India curry, which left her nonplussed. The thing is, curry is not an Indian dish, no matter how much it’s associated with the subcontinent, notes the chef, as does Akhila Das Blah who, along with Kshama Alur, founded Indigrow.

Indigrow founders Kshama Alur
and Akhila Das Blah

Indigrow Kids, an early culture learning platform and company for kids has partnered with six pathbreaking Indian women leaders in the food world to launch a campaign to create cultural awareness at a young age and give little ones the tools to express their cultural identity through the food they eat. The ‘What’s in my Lunchbox’ campaign brings together industry leaders such as Garima Arora (Owner and Head Chef at GAA Restaurant, Bangkok, the first Indian woman to win a Michelin Star), Aditi Dugar (CEO and Co-Founder at Masque Restaurant, Mumbai, India’s latest entrant to Asia’s 50 best restaurants), Amninder Sandhu (Award Winning Chef and Co-founder of Iktara, Mumbai), Chinu Vaze (Chef, TV host, writer and mom), Maria Goretti (Chef, Award winning Cookbook author, TV host and content creator) and Palak Patel (Chef, TV personality and TEDx speaker), all of whom are changing the way we look at Indian food across the world. Food is an essential part of our cultural identity.

Many Indian kids, both within the country and across the world, are often embarrassed or teased, sometimes even bullied for ‘what’s in their lunchbox’. Healthy, nutritious, Indian food is not perceived to be cool and can lead to issues of low self-esteem and confidence. Through the campaign, Indigrow Kids hopes to empower little ones to accept and own their culture, to not feel shy and conscious eating Indian snacks in the cafeteria.

Speaking about the collaboration, Alur said, “At Indigrow, we believe that cultural representation matters, even at a young age. It empowers little kids all over the world to have essential conversations. Conversations that help children grow up accepting and embracing their skin colour, gender, food, culture, dress, body image, etc without limiting themselves and their perceptions of ‘who they should be’ and focus instead on celebrating ‘who they are’. These talented women through their inspiring pathways are changing the narrative on how Indian food is perceived throughout the world by adults and now, children.” Alur, who is originally from India, is currently raising a third culture kid (her husband is South African) in Singapore and Blah is her best friend and early childhood expert.

Together, through Indigrow, they hope to bring diversity and culture play into every child’s play room fostering much needed cultural competence in today’s world, passing down culture and identity to the next generation. As part of the collaboration, each chef has created special child friendly recipes like Imli Candy or Mango Laddoos inspired by Indigrow’s books and games.

These recipes will in turn be recreated by food bloggers/ moms and their kids across countries in multipl e continents. Speaking about the collaboration with Indigrow, Chef Garima Arora, said, “I think what Indigrow is doing is very thoughtful and inspiring, to bring all this knowledge and this pride and start them young, specially for kids who are not growing up in India.”

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