It was in June that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) senior officials were engaged in the process of applying on behalf of Hyderabad to the UNESCO creative cities network in the gastronomy category. The brainchild of Municipal Administration Secretary Arvind Kumar and GHMC Additional Commissioner Musharraf Ali Faruqui, the latter was specifically looking for visual material that would be able to encapsulate the food culture and ethos of the city. The focus, he had told Filter Kaapi, was on street food even as the presence of the city was well established.
From 2002, UNESCO has been recognising cities in seven categories, including dance, music, films, gastronomy, arts and history.
The effort paid off and of the 66 cities that were added, Hyderabad got selected in the gastronomy category while Mumbai was chosen in the film category. In all, 12 cities had applied from India. Eight of them completed the application process. They made the presentation before UNESCO India and four were further shortlisted. These included Lucknow and Srinagar, apart from Hyderabad and Mumbai. The final decision on the two cities was taken by UNESCO Paris.
While the honour does put Hyderabad on the food map of the world, as a destination with its unique flavour, it is important to note that it goes beyond recognising food only for its taste or recipe. UNESCO was looking for a city where the food culture had grown organically, scored high on the sustainability factor and was directly connected to the livelihoods and lifestyle of the people in the city.
“Hyderabad scored very high on these aspects because 10-15 per cent of the employment in the city is through gastronomy as in function halls, roadside vendors and restaurants. In fact, Hyderabad has one lakh food bandis. At 1000 tons of meat consumed every day, Hyderabad has the highest per capita meat consumption in Asia,” said Musharraf.