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Gaurav Bhatia Sotheby’s Ex MD, Luxury Guru, takes us through “Luxury on the Table”

“India’s gastronomic and culinary heritage is real luxury, ”says Gaurav Bhatia, former Managing Director Sotheby’sIndia, Ex Marketing Director LVMH Moet Hennessy.

He sheds light on the millennial generation making for the most curious customers to explore the world of luxury via global cuisine taking us through some of the most unique, exotic and bizarre meats and plants people eat

Bringing luxury to the table is literally about taste. And when we talk about luxury on a table, luxe lovers have a universe out there to choose from. Rare and distinctive foods become the ultimate luxury.  Food connoisseurs agree that they would happily pay a fortune to get a taste of what tops as some of the most exotic, delicious, popular and extravagant dishes around the planet. Based on rarity and demand, sometimes even inimitable creations by top chefs make it to the list of luxury foods that are the most expensive bites to have.

To elucidate on when is a food termed luxury, ExSotheby’s India Managing Director, Gaurav Bhatia says “Simply put foods that have distinction because of either their rarity or extraordinary quality, are able to hold notes of refinement in texture, taste, content or other quality such as stimulant or inebriant, are the ones that deem as luxury.”Gaurav Bhatia Sotheby’s former MD, makes known how the upcoming generation will make the most curious customers to explore the world of luxury particularly of cuisines around the world. Adventurous enough to experiment in even some of the most bizarre meats and plants.

The growing rage of luxury foods is accorded to a great deal to the social media generation with food bloggers and lifestyle influencers making viewers see and believe about the ultimates in life that one cannot be missing out on.  “Young Indian consumers are looking out for experiences and are far more open-minded and adventurous than previous generations. This is due to their exposure to travel, media, social media and really progress in wanting to discover newer cultures and experiences. Food is one of the first and authentic ways to experience a new culture.”

The concept of luxury in gastronomy has however not been a recent appearance. Historically, cultures and civilizations have had distinct symbolics of quality and intricacies characterising food items as an evidence of social ranking. Throughout the Middle Ages, the upper class and nobility had better diet than that the lower classes with a variety of meats like venison, pork, lamb, fish, shellfish, spices, cheese, fruits, being deemed as luxury upper-class delicacies.

Eloquent desserts made of rich cocoa beans and expensive chocolates made luxury food through the royal households of England in the past. Luxury foods through the years have also rebranded today from what was “rich in calories” to being “rich in nutrients.” The changing role and meaning of luxury foods is what essentially extends today to make the list of absolutely sought-after foods today.

India has historically also been part of a culture of luxurious food made in the grand kitchens of maharajas to the eloquent delicacies that various former ruling dynasties like the Mughals have brought in. Luxury food in the past also included the footprints of the French, Portuguese or British delicacies that were brought here during their years of colonization and settlements in the country. “For instance most don’t know but the samosa and jalebi are actually imports from ancient Persia.”

Saffron tops the list as the most popular luxurious ingredients in the country. The red spice is luxury not just in India but one of the world’s most expensive ingredients – worth more per ounce than even gold. Gaurav Bhatia, CEO Maison India and ex MD Sotheby’s India having being linked with esteemed luxury houses LVMH Moet Hennessy, explains the reason behind being, “Saffron is very rare.

Saffron crocuses only bloom for a week or two in a year during autumn. Apart from the very short cropping span, harvesting the spice is done by hand and is quite labour intensive.” He adds to it, how each saffron flower has only three stigma which means it takes around acres of land’s space to just create a kilogram of saffron. “Adding a pinch of saffron to rice or desserts takes it to another level with its fragrance and incredible taste.”

“White Truffle makes for another luxury favourite,” says Bhatia, recording a sale price of $330,000 for a truffle weighing 1.5 kg. This truffle is an underground fungus found in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. It is this unpredictability that it grows only in the wild and its specific location, along with the lengths people go to find and harvest them, which secures its position in the list of luxury food.

Iberico ham, Wagyu beef and Foie gras maintain the dominance of meat in the luxury tables being the costliest food items being sold. Former Sotheby’s India MD, Gaurav Bhatia mentions, “The drink in the list is undisputedly won by Kopi Luwak coffee selling at $700 per kg. As bizarre the truth is, the drink comes from coffee beans eaten and partly digested and then defecated by the Asian palm civet or the civet cat.”

Around the world, there are food items like Oysters and Caviar from seafood that are priced really high because of the difficulty to procure the items. They are tricky to handle and package and added to this is reasons like over-fishing and pollution in the water bodies that have made them one in the rarest items to get hands on. Gaurav Bhatia puts some light to this, “According to the Guinness World Records, the most expensive caviar recorded is of white caviar sold for a price of $34,500 per kilogram.” Credited to its intense flavour and aroma,

“In India, Gucchi, an Indian truffle variant, javitri or mace and jayphal or nutmeg and of course Kashmiri saffron top the list of luxe foods.  But then Luxury isn’t just about the ingredients. It’s also about the recipes. Age old recipes coming down from families is the greatest luxury,” Concludes Bhatia.

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