The recent news on air everywhere is the visit of US President Barack Obama to India. While tracking the visit of US President Barack Obama and its huge fleet of 5 layered security, it reminds me of the days having worked at the 5 star hotels where there would be top notch VVIP’s, diplomats, State dignitaries and celebrities visiting the hotel and the food prepared for them had to be tasted by a team of food tasters before serving the elite guests.
A food taster is a person who takes the food or drinks to be served to confirm that it is safe to eat and does not contain toxins or poisons. This is one of the important protocols to be performed when any VVIP’s, diplomats, State dignitary is visiting the hotel or the place he eats. Food tasters have several functions:
The safety of the food may be determined by observing whether or not the food taster subsequently becomes ill. However, that food tasting would not be effective against slow-acting poisons that take a long time to show any visible symptoms.
The food taster may also be responsible for the preparation and serving of food(as seen followed by many Royalty from Europe and Arab nations. The hope is that tasters will be diligent in preventing poison from being introduced into food, in order to safeguard their own lives. In the event that the target (VVIP, Dignitaries, etc.) should fall ill or die, the similar illness or death of the taster provides evidence of deliberate poisoning. In recent times, animals such as mice have been used to detect impurities in food to be consumed by humans, such as during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
For President Obama’s first and much-anticipated three-day visit to India, the government created a team of Food Tasters to follow him around to monitor his gustatory activities in Mumbai, and to ensure that there was nothing amiss–or poisonous. But the taste team, made up of doctors from JJ Hospital, never got near the President’s food. “The Americans had made their own arrangements,”, indicating that President Obama has his own Tasting Team.
All these exercises regarding the food and the Obama platter reminds me of the days when I had the privilege to serve the State dignitaries and the elite visitors during the 4th G-15 Summit held at New Delhi between 28-30 March 1993. I remember working day and night with heavy security and many officials from the health department, food tasters, secret agents checking each and every item/ ingredients that was been used for cooking their menu. Normally when a menu for the event is decided, fresh packets of spices and all ingredients are been inspected and opened by the agents and officials and food is been cooked by the Chefs in the presence of these officials and later tasted and checked. Food is also collected as samples and sent to the Lab for checking.
Here it is not easy for every chef to be part of the event. It’s usually the person who is experienced, has a good track record, and highly honest and confidential with a proper security clearance. I was one of the privileged chefs that had given me pride to be part of this event while working at the ITC Hotel The Maurya, New Delhi. I had the opportunity to be serving them for the breakfast where we had live food counters preparing variety of dishes like the dosas and omlettes etc. I cherish all those valuable moments of serving the highest ranks of States International and National leaders who attended the summit.
Now the latest news that we get to hear on the Obama visit is that the Indian government is adding an extra layer of security to the food and in addition to the normal presidential food safety protocols, which presumably include Secret Service agent-chefs to taste test food, it is reported that an elite team of food tasters will assist with the job. A team of 12 doctors from the JJ Hospital have been assigned as food tasters for the biggest VVIP of all, President Barrack Obama. It is also reported that the doctors are not professional food tasters but they have on occasions tasted food for different government officials.
There has been lots of speculation on the items that are going to be served on the Obama Platter. It is also reported that as the First lady Mitchelle Obama is a health food conscious there would be dishes made of seafood like the prawns, lobsters, smoked fish etc. The Obama Platter is still a top secret due to security norms. I have also heard reports that White House chefs will be traveling with the President due to fear of food poisoning and ensure his food is not spiked.
To get the essence and flavor of the Bukhara food its best to eat with fingers because the special aroma and herbs used in preparing the dishes are lost when forks and knives are used. Normally during events of this sought, the chefs are tight lipped about the menu as they are scrutinized with hawk’s eye overseeing all the culinary exercises during that period. It’s a very tedious and a stressful job for the chefs who are really under immense pressure and have to give their best in serving the most tantalizing dish with epicurean expertise carrying a passionate, placid, and calm with a big smile on their lips.
Our Indian Prime Minister has hosted an elaborate dinner for the Obamas and many other state dignitaries serving a wide range of dishes from the Awadhi cuisine. The food like the music was Indian. The non-vegetarian menu began with Shorba shahbano (mulagatani soups); and was followed by Jhinga dum nisha (grilled prawns), Mahi dum anari (sea bass with pomegranate), Raan-e- dumpukht (mutton raan), Subz miloni (seasonal vegetables pan fried with Indian spices), Chukki gobhi badami, Dal dumpukht, Murgh yakhni pulao (chicken pulao) and assorted Indian breads. The sweets were raspberry ganache tart, kesari phirni and mawa potli. In the vegetarian section, the non-vegetarian items were replaced with Qasr-e pukhtan, Dum ki guchhi and Motia pulao.
The thought of the luscious dishes revives my previous experiences and have enlightened my days that I had spent at the ITC Hotel The Maurya and given my best to keep my culinary expertise flying high.
Summary: U.S President Barack Obama Food Tasting Team In India
- Food Tasting Team
- Food Tasting Team