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Famous Chef Namboothiri serving quality food for 16 years at school fests attacked for his Brahmin identity, read the bizarre tale from Kerala

Famous Chef Namboothiri serving quality food for 16 years at school fests attacked for his Brahmin identity, and he decides to quit

On January 8, famous culinary expert Pazhayidom Mohanan Namboothiri announced he would not participate in the tender for serving food at school fests in the state. His decision came after Namboothiri was attacked for his Brahmin identity. Notably, he has been serving food at school fests for over 16 years and has served over two crore students to date.

Namboothiri, who is known for his culinary expertise, expressed his displeasure over communal hatred. He said, “Supervising the kitchen has become tiresome. I will not be cooking for the Kerala School Kalolsavam anymore. I am wondering how I will face a generation that scatters seeds of communal hatred, even in matters concerning food in youthful verve. This makes me very uncomfortable.”

Namboothiri spoke to Manorama News about the controversy over serving vegetarian food during the school fest. He added, “The school fest kitchens were my treasure. However, when the new generation of sycophants come forward with these allegations, it is not right of me to hold on to that jewel.”

Namboothiri has been serving food at school youth festivals, science festivals, and athletic meets in the state for over 16 years. He said, “I have served food to more than 2.25 crore students. I am satisfied I was able to serve food to those tired participants after their performances. But this allegation, which I think was targeted at me personally, pained me a lot. I can understand if the allegation was against the quality of the food. But they should not have given a religious colour to it.”

He further noted that the State Government decided to serve vegetarian food, and he had no objection to preparing non-veg food for the festival. “If the government takes a call to include non-vegetarian food in the menu, then there was no scope for any complaint,” Namboothiri added.

Namboothiri further explained that when food is prepared for large-scale events, it is challenging to prepare and serve healthy non-vegetarian food. There were 9,000 students at the Kalolsavam, and a total of 24,000 people were served food during the festival.

Interestingly, Namboothiri noted that he had served non-vegetarian food in the state athletic and games meet. “Apart from that, I have not taken an order for any meat preparations,” he clarified. It was clear that Namboothiri did not object to serving non-veg food, but it was the State government’s decision to go with the vegetarian menu.

Namboothiri added, “For over half a decade, I have been serving non-vegetarian food at sports meets. I was never hesitant to take up the job citing my religion or caste. When it comes to serving food, all are alike for us.”

Following the controversy, Namboothiri has decided not to participate in the tendering process for future state youth festivals. He would not be serving food at the South Indian Science Fair at Thrissur scheduled from January 26 to January 31.

Namboothiri even had to restrict entry to his kitchen, fearing attacks on him. “I cannot perform with such fear. That is why I have decided not to participate in kalolsavam,” he said.

About the controversy

On January 4, Arun Kumar, a famous TV news anchor and a professor at Kerala University, published a post on his Facebook account condemning the decision to serve only vegetarian food during the School Youth Festival organised by State Government in Kozhikkode, Kerala.

Source: Facebook

The contract was given to Namboothiri after following the due process. It was the government’s decision to serve only vegetarian food during the festival. However, because Namboothiri is a Brahmin, it was turned into an anti-Brahmin agenda.

Notably, every year vegetarian food is served during the festival. In his post, Kumar accused Namboothiri of imposing vegetarianism on others by not serving non-veg food during the festival. In his post in Malayalam, Kumar claimed that most of the students attending the festival were non-vegetarian, but only vegetarian food was served. He added casteism and the concept of purity and impurity to the rhetoric. He said, “This is a school festival food pavilion, not a place to serve vegetarian prasad. There is a true renaissance in a place like this, not when a Brahmin reaches the kitchen but when a variety of food gets served when there is no imposition of beliefs of purity.”

His post sparked a controversy in the state, and the government announced they would consider serving non-vegetarian food from the following year. Education Minister and senior CPI(M) leader V Sivankutty claimed, “My idea was to give biryani to the children”. In a Facebook post, he said, “This is a festival of diversity and the Education Department will initiate steps to promote that. Over the years, only vegetarian dishes have been served at the festival. This is going to change and from next year, there will be non-vegetarian food at the table.”

It is evident that while the chef was not against serving non-vegetarian food at the fest, just because he was a Brahmin, controversy was created, claiming he was imposing so-called vegetarianism on the students participating in the fest.

Congress leader objected to serving only veg food

Congress leader VT Balram and others objected to serving only vegetarian dishes by a “Brahmin cook”.

Muslims want vegetarian food to be served

While people like Arun Kumar opposed serving only vegetarian food, the Muslim community vouched for vegetarian food. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) called the controversy unfortunate. They urged the government to continue serving vegetarian food during the fest. IUML’s KPA Majeed said the demand for non-veg food came from the Left circle and accused LDF government of disturbing harmony in the society.

He said, “It’s unfortunate that such a controversy came up with regard to the food served for the state school youth festival. The whole responsibility lies with the State government and the Education Minister. The food has been served for the youth festival for many years and there was never a controversy like this.”

He added, “Vegetarian food can be consumed by everyone but some people may not be able to eat non-vegetarian dishes and this is why the youth festival has only one kitchen serving vegetarian dishes. There is no need to divide the kitchen and it’s impractical. The Minister, without discussing with anyone, declared that non-vegetarian dishes will be served and it’s not right.”

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Searched termsKerala Brahmins
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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