9 April 2017: The very first Nepali food festival on Australian soil has drawn mixed response from visitors to the Belmore Park event. Almost everyone southasia.com.au spoke to extended a massive “thank you” to the organisers but had nothing but harsh words for at least few of the participating restaurants for “defaming” Nepali cuisine rather than promoting it.
There have been concerns around hygiene, quality and price incommensurate with the quality of food sold on site. The event nevertheless attracted an impressive crowd for a maiden Nepali food festival with organisers now claiming that at least 10,000 people visited the festival.
Two Tables, the group behind the event, indicated it was aware of concerns raised by members of the community who have taken to social media to severely criticise some restaurants (unidentified) for serving extremely poor food at high cost.
Despite few qualitative hiccups, organisers are happy at the turnout and response from both Nepali and Australian foodies. Suraj Pradhan, a young chef from Sydney who was behind the “Tasting Nepal – Nepali Food Festival”, wrote on his Facebook page today, “It seemed like the whole world turned up for Tasting Nepal yesterday. What an amazing crowd that was!”
He went on to add, “We would like to hear from you your experience, feedback and suggestions on what and where we could have done better.”
Feedback there has been all over Facebook.
Many have commented that Two Tables will have to be much more careful in how it chooses participating restaurants from next year. The organisers have said they will build on this year’s experience when they organise the second episode of Tasting Nepal in 2018. Many in the community are already urging the organisation to continue the event in the future.
Some argue, given the word “Festival”, they expected more than just few stalls selling the ubiquitous momos and aloo ko achar (spicy potato salad). Sydney-based writer of Nepali-language novel Darling Harbour, for instance, said he was expecting some sort of informative sessions which might have helped non-Nepalis learn more about Nepali cuisine. Nisprabh Saji, who visited and ate at the Festival, said the massive turnout of Nepali and non-Nepali visitors could have been a good opportunity to promote Nepali cuisine but the opportunity was not tapped into.
A status by Dipu Dahal, who goes by the Facebook name of Dahal Dipu, has attracted over one hundred likes and comments and none are tributes to restaurants that had stalls at the festival venue. “Food- Cheap Quality With No Taste..!!” – was her overall rating of the event. “Was this programme aimed at attracting foreigners (non-Nepalis) to Nepali cuisine or was it to tell them never to come back to eat Nepali food?,” she posed her scathing question.
“Seems like all the restaurants stall are there to earn money rather than promoting Nepali food (sic),” she said when asked how she rated the stalls and their food.
Ishwor Pokharel, a popular Nepali singer in Sydney, said, “Food festival has to be really different I guess.” But Mr Pokharel did not see any difference between the stalls offering Nepali food during Nepal Festivals (held every two years across Australia) and this food festival. He was expecting some sort of demonstrations on Nepali food and different menus at different stalls, he mentioned, but all stalls turned out to have the same things on their menus.
The first Nepali food festival nonetheless drew over ten thousand visitors, organisers claim. Shishir Kandel, another chef involved as one of the organisers, said they had expected around ten thousand visitors but according to registration data and visitors list, the number could be even higher.