Preena Chauhan has a background in Indian cooking, facilitating, business, and an MA in Environmental Studies. These passions have come together in her creation of a new line of processed Indian foods that follow a mandate of sustainable business practices. This mandate has made Preena particularly interested in procuring local ingredients for her processed food line and her cooking classes. Preena’s presentation shared the food business perspective on buying locally grown world produce.
The name of Preena’s business is Arvinda’s; its genesis came from the cooking classes hosted by her mother. Preena worked alongside her mother and found that cooking masalas from scratch was an important way for customers to make authentic Indian foods.
As Preena noted in her presentation, the regionality of Indian cuisine impacts the produce and ingredients used. In these classes, most of people are not South Asian, so Preena could promote these specialty ingredients to mainstream customers. Teaching these classes helped Preena to create an understanding of the need and demand for local sources of world crops by both ethno-cultural groups and mainstream Canadians.
Preena has taken her desire and interest in local and sustainable products one step further and taught her students to use local seasonal produce and adapt recipes to this ideal. In her classes, Preena looked at ways to make ethno-cultural food more sustainable by supporting local farmers, when so many ingredients are imported.
Arvinda’s is a small processing business specializing in creating specialty and gourmet Indian spices, marinades, and other products which supply food services and retail lines. Through this business and in her classes, Preena became aware of some of the difficulties with procuring local produce for cooking and processing. For instance, she had a hard time getting local garlic that is also processed, peeled and crushed for easy use. As well, Preena found it a barrier getting Ontario product into retail stores.
Preena feels that much of this can be addressed through networking, and education, and working directly with farmers. It is those contacts and infrastructure that will make it easier for food businesses to support the local food movement.