We were thrilled to host His Excellency, Mr. Richard Rahul Verma, the US Ambassador to India, at Akshaya Patra’s Vasanthapura kitchen on 4th November 2015. He was accompanied by Ms. Andie DeArment, Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Consulate General in Chennai. The Ambassador was received by Shridhar Venkat, CEO TAPF; Sundeep Talwar, CMO TAPF and Vinay N.Kumar, Director Operation TAPF.
The entourage arrived at the kitchen at 7.30am sharp. After a warm welcome, the Ambassador was escorted to the terrace of the kitchen facility. The Ambassador keenly observed the silos, solar panels, RO (Reverse Osmosis) plant and other fixtures on the terrace. This is where the entire cooking operation starts, as the entire kitchen follows a gravity-flow model that operates downward, floor by floor, to increase efficiency in the processes.
Next, he was escorted to the floor below, the third floor of the facility. This is the area where pre-processing is done and raw material is readied to be integrated into the cooking process. The Ambassador was very receptive to the brief that was being given to him by Shridhar Venkat, while Andie clicked away to her heart’s content! The Ambassador showed keen interest in the processes involved in this precooking area. He was impressed by the hygiene and cleanliness maintained on this floor, the cold storage used to keep the vegetables fresh till cooking, and was awed by the use of latest technology and modern practices at every stage in Akshaya Patra’s mega-kitchen! He was especially impressed by the absence of any dependence on LPG in the kitchen!
The next stop was the second-first floor combined cooking area. This is the heart of this mega-facility. The Ambassador looked mesmerized by sight of huge cauldrons bubbling away. He was so taken in by the captivating sights and smells that he volunteered to participate in the actual cooking! Out came the aprons and cooking gloves for his convenience. All decked up, he took into hand a massive ladle and started stirring pulao! Next, he took up another ladle and stirred the kesari bhat that was being readied for the school children. He did a pretty good job, we must say! He looked around keenly and had many a questions to ask. Shridhar Venkat was close at hand to address each of his queries.
The entourage then landed at the ground floor where the packing of food and dispatch of packaged vessels takes place with a meticulous clock-work precision. What struck the ambassador was the cleanliness and the faultless packing and dispatch lines. For moments, he observed the food being filled into vessels and then being transported through conveyor belts to the dispatch section. He then moved out to the dispatch section and was quite impressed by the efficient tagging and loading process. He closely observed the insides of the vehicle that carries these meals to schools. He was then escorted to the boiler area where bio degradable waste is used to fire the massive boiler that in turn generates steam for the cooking process. The Ambassador was hugely appreciative of our efforts to make the best use of natural resources like solar, bio and green energies!
This winded up the tour of the facility and the Ambassador and his entourage was escorted up to the Board room. Here, over breakfast, the Ambassador, Ms. Andie, the CEO and the CMO of Akshaya Patra had a chat.
The Ambassador was very pleased and content to have made it to Akshaya Patra’s kitchen despite his very busy schedule in Bengaluru. Shridhar Venkat and everyone at Akshaya Patra too felt very honoured to have hosted His Excellency.
So it was on a very pleasant note that the Ambassador bid adieu, but he did so with a promise to talk about and endorse the good work that The Akshaya Patra Foundation is doing towards the elimination of child hunger in India.