India's up-and-coming chefs can now specialise in vegetarian cuisine

So, for the sake of argument, you’re a vegetarian, whether that be for religious, moral reasons, health and so on. In order to pursue your dream occupation, however, it is compulsory that you learn to handle and cook with meat. Off-putting? Offensive? Intolerable? This is a predicament that many individuals in India have for the first time found themselves free of this year.

Up until now, there was no degree for vegetarians in Hotel Management courses, meaning it was compulsory for everyone to prepare meat and effectively neglect their beliefs. For the 2016 academic session, however, there is the widely welcomed introduction of a three-year Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality and Hotel Administration with specialisation in vegetarian cuisine. The course will be held in three government-run Institutes of Hotel Management in Gandhinagar, Jaipur and Bhopal, expecting to be extended further in 2017 following a pilot year.

There are many world-renowned vegetarian restaurants already in India, such as the Sofitel Mumbai BKC vegetarian restaurant. This course will help bring international recognition to vegetarian Indian food.

There are many world-renowned vegetarian restaurants already in India, such as the Sofitel Mumbai BKC vegetarian restaurant. This course will help bring international recognition to vegetarian Indian food.

The importance of vegetarian cuisine in India

The decision to introduce the course comes from the Tourism Ministry under Mahesh Sharma, who received requests from hotel associations including the Indian Heritage Hotel Association (IHHA) and the Hotel Association of India (HAI), the latter of which has membership of about 300 hotels countrywide.

Vegetarian communities within India

In June of last year, the then textiles minister Santosh Gangwar also wrote to the Ministry of Human Resource Development and tourism ministries to request non-vegetarian courses to be optional, arguing the very legitimate point that vegetarian communities such as Jain, Brahmin and Vaishya are at present excluded because of the requirement to cook with meat.

A petition for a vegetarian course

Additionally, a petition was started on change.org, which has gained almost 4,000 signatures. It explains “students coming from vegetarian families who are inclined towards this esteemed course are denied admission by their parents due to family values. If separate a degree or option is created, the students who are joining the present mixed (veg and non-veg) courses shall be indirectly prevented from eating or becoming non-vegetarian as against the wishes of their own, families and religion”. They also argue that if there is capacity for specialisation in other degrees, why not in Hotel Management?

The campaign on change.org attracted nearly 4000 signatures, claiming that people are unnecessarily excluded from current hotel management courses, and that India could do vegetarian cooking much better than it currently does.

The campaign on change.org attracted nearly 4000 signatures, claiming that people are unnecessarily excluded from current hotel management courses, and that India could do vegetarian cooking much better than it currently does.

A goal to become internationally recognised for exceptional vegetarian cuisine

Furthermore, the change “will not only be a boost for the students but it will also benefit the Hotel and Tourism Industry, by getting qualified intelligent vegetarian chefs in India and all over the world”. Indeed, the founder of the petition struggled not only to find a vegetarian hotel management course in India, but anywhere across the globe. Whilst vegetarian cooking diplomas are available elsewhere, such as at the world’s premier vegetarian cooking school, the Cordon Vert Cookery School in Cheshire (UK), the culinary skills component is just one aspect of the Hotel Management course which also requires students to study accounting, accommodation and law among other subjects.

Early days for the course

The course has not been in the making for all that long. Only back in May, reports said that the government were not planning on developing vegetarian-only hotel management institutes. Allegedly the idea was dropped because it was felt that with just one all-vegetarian five star hotel in India, there would be no career option for those who trained in vegetarian cuisine. These feelings seem to be echoed by some members of the hospitality industry who agreed it would restrict employability.

Nonetheless it seems their stance has changed somewhat over the last few months and really it is unsurprising considering a few of the facts. In 2007, statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization demonstrated that Indians had the lowest meat consumption worldwide, citing surveys that estimate 40% of the population as being vegetarian. Other research conducted by the Government of India suggests 28-29% of the population are vegetarian based on a sample of 8858 people - despite Westernisation, this was an increase compared to a similar survey done nearly one decade before. More recently, a nationwide survey from 2014 showed that the numbers of meat eaters are expected to decline, with experts claiming the change is likely driven by increasing awareness of the impacts upon health, as well as religiosity and changing lifestyles.

Given that Hotel Management is one of the hottest courses in India’s hospitality sector today, with many world class hotels which have strictly vegetarian-only restaurants, it is unsurprising that there are already plans in place for more of the 21 Institutes of Hotel Management to follow in the footsteps of the first brave 3.

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