(Happily) Wrecked on a Reef by WGSHA
Picture yourself as a decorated seafarer, who’s set out to explore the mystical wonders of the Seven Seas, but as luck would have it, the tempestuous oceans got the better of your mighty cruiser and left you shipwrecked on an island. Just when you think your ambitious stint as a mariner has come to a devastating, yet statistically inevitable end, an inexplicably rich aroma of deliciously cooked fish cakes draws your attention to a far end of the proverbial island.
Mesmerized, you walk towards it when a conflicting, yet equally alluring smell of Fibo Gnocchi draws your attention to the other end of the island (let’s assume for the purpose of the current discourse that you’ve got superhuman vision and olfactory senses, good enough to allow you a complete vista of the island from end to end).
Pleasantly discombobulated, you look around and notice that the particular island you’re on miraculously comprises the cultures of all the islands you’ve ever dreamed of visiting as a wee sailor still fresh out of Sailing School, or whatever the equivalent of that is for sailors – that’s not important. The point is, your dreams of exploring the Oceanic cultures have just found its one-stop haven, and you’re thrilled beyond comprehension.
That’s exactly what WGSHA’s Food Fest on the 17th and 18th, Wrecked on a Reef felt like for the many culinary enthusiasts present there. It was one of the fests that was completely organized by the students, from both Hotel Management as well as from the BACA courses. At the entrance, we were warmly greeted by Het Shah, the organizing head of the event, who took us through the concept of the fest and what it meant to the students.
“Wrecked on a Reef is one of the many fests that we organize each year that’s run entirely by students, in order to give us a taste of what working at a real restaurant is like. It’s fully managed by the student teams both on the logistics end as well as the culinary end. Fests like these are when the staff take a backseat and let us completely run the show. It helps us gain a valuable insight into the hotel industry.”
Greeting the patrons at the entrance, stood the bar aptly named ‘Ting Irie’, which is what ‘Everything’s alright!’ (read: ‘e’eriTing Aairie!’) sounds like in a Jamaican accent. It was graced by adept bar-magicians, Aiyanna and Gabriel, who prepared their own blend of pineapple and coconut based mocktails, named The Haka and Coco Jambo respectively.
After the cordial introductions, we were led to the kitchens, where the magic and the mysteries of the culinary world unfold. We were each given sanitary caps which had to be worn at all times in the kitchen in accordance with the strict hygiene rules. The first section was the bakery, which was maintained at a lower temperature than the other kitchens. There, we were granted the chance to witness the dessert – Pavlova, which was a combination of Tamarind Crème Pate, Caramelized Bananas, Blue Curacao Glaze, Strawberry Compote and ice cream. The level of perfection to which their dessert was attuned before it gets served is almost palpable.
Following that, we were led to the main kitchen, where we met the Vice-Prinicipal, Chef Thiru, who was more than happy to see the students doing such a great job.
“I’ve been at this institution for 18 years now, and I feel proud to see it grow so much in that time. The kitchen that we’re in at the moment used to be the only kitchen back then. Now we’ve got so much more. In the next five years, I hope to see WGSHA among the very best Hotel Management and Culinary Arts institutes in Asia. We’ve already achieved that status in India.”
The kitchen, from what we observed, seemed to be much like a living organism, with each faction working on certain modules in order to keep the kitchen alive, and prepare the perfect meal for the patrons. There were separate teams working in assembly lines to make the Cuban Fish Cakes, the eccentric and delicious Red Cabbage Chowder Soup. The main course consisted of Eggplant Parmiggiana, Colonial Chicken Roulade and Pork Chops. This was also the very first fest which included an actual Pasta Course (Fibo Gnocchi).
Each dish was carefully so chosen to keep up with the theme of islands, and the students made sure it wasn’t just the regular run-of-the-mill major islands that they covered – they wanted to truly represent the culture of the islands in its true sense. This was reflected in the way they presented and plated the dishes, the general décor of the area, as well as (in some cases), the choice of clothing.
Being a part of this food fest was truly one of those things you’d remember for a long time after it happens, due to the fact that it was an experience in itself, and not just your mundane eat-out. As I look back on this, despite the fact that life in itself can be a journey in which one may encounter the most dangerous of tides and find themselves wrecked on a reef, I’ll remind myself with a smile that as long as you’ve good food and a Haka to wash it down with, ‘Ting Irie’.
(Photographs by Niharika ‘Nix’ Nayak)