Chennai, Sep 4: Even though raw and ready-to-cook millet packs occupy retail store shelves and specialty millet based restaurants are popping up, mostly the guests who are above 40 years go for millet dishes at star hotel restaurants, say hoteliers.
"Guests who are above 40 years of age are now conscious about what they eat and they opt for healthy food. They are receptive to the idea of trying out millet dishes. After the first time, they go for such dishes," Jagadeesh Karuppaiah, Sous Chef, Sheraton Grand Chennai Resort & Spa, told IANS.
According to him, one has to explain the benefits of millets for people to try it out first.
Amongst the younger segment, those who are studying or are in the medical field go for millet items, while the young software professionals still go for the regular maida dishes, a couple of hoteliers told IANS.
"Only in Chennai and that too by people in the age group of 25-40 years, there is a reluctance to go for millet based dishes regularly," celebrity Chef Damu informed IANS.
Can the hoteliers just call the dishes made with millets by their generic names - say idli/dosa/biryani- without prefixing the millet name to make their guests try the item on the buffet?
Experts are divided over it.
"In order to make young people go for millet dishes, perhaps calling the dishes by their generic name without prefixing the millet name could be tried out," Damu said.
However, Prakash Jayadevan, General Manager of 167-room Trident Hotel which is part of the Oberoi Group here, differs about it.
"Guests may not appreciate that as there will be a huge expectation mismatch when they eat. For instance, the bite size would differ in the case of a basmati rice biryani as against a biryani made with a millet," Jayadevan said.
"Millets are super food. And why not brand it and give it a new name," he added.
Echoing the same view Karuppaiah said: "One has to prefix the millet name to the dish and also explain its health benefits."
As food is first evaluated with the eyes, people may skip a dish if it is not in the well known colour or form.
According to Damu, people living outside Chennai go for millet based items like Samai Pongal, Varagu Adai and others at restaurants.
Millet based restaurants like 'Coconut Shell', 'Millet Magic Meal' have come up in Tamil Nadu and also in other states.
"Apart from main dishes (idli, dosa, vada, poori, oothappam and others) made with millets including noodles and pasta we also make sweets and pastries with millets. We use full wheat flour for making the pastry sponge and not maida," S. Vignesh alias Chef Annamviky, one of the brains behind Coconut Shell, told IANS.
He said at the 30 cover Coconut Shell, one can get ragi choco banana cake, kodo millet walnut brownie and others.
Vignesh said he had spent considerable time with the tribals in Tamil Nadu to learn about millet dishes.