Nepal Minute - out of the ordinary

World Cup 2022

Krishna Sapkota

Worldwide fever of the FIFA World Cup 2022 is at its peak, with the first semi-final between Argentina and Croatia starting later tonight. A majority of the world population is zoomed into the most popular sports tournament in stadiums, on televisions or handheld devices. The captivating global event, which takes place once in four years, presents football and a multi-verse euphoria. 

Host Qatar, the first country to do so in the Middle East, offers more than just football. The multicultural delights offered by the Gulf country in the event have imparted a message of unifying and bridging global diversity. The organisers have spread out a gastronomic banqueting table along with high-class hospitality. Guests and visitors can savour a variety of cuisines. The delicacies add gourmet value to the World Cup. 

Nepal is making its mark in this mega event, not on the field but indoors! A Nepali chef is whetting diners’ appetites for more with his trademark delicacies.

Binod Baral, a London-based Nepali chef and food researcher is leading a team that has already served top officials from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to American actor Morgan Freeman and British football legend David Beckham during the many games of the ongoing World Cup. There is no half-time or injury time for him. He is on a full-time job and set to serve many more officials up to the final on December 18. 

Baral arrived in Qatar with his team two months ago. The organisers gave him the task of developing the menu for FIFA officials, Qatari ministers, guests and visitors.

“We did preliminary research to identify the favourite and frequently consumed dishes in Qatar,” said Baral. “It gave us some insights into food habits here. This helped us to take focused decisions and put them into action. Our team decided to focus our attention mainly around three ethnic food cultures, first Qatari cuisine, second Indian cuisine (most preferred) and third western food considering many attendees hail from diverse cultures, traditions and tastes.”

A native of Pokhara, Baral heads the research and development department and innovation kitchen at the World’s Best Gourmet Entertainment Group (DO & CO International), an Austria-based multinational company.

The company won the contract for carrying out food research, developing a menu and offering catering cuisine services to officials and guests attending the World Cup. The company's official website says the company has three business segments – airline catering, international event catering and restaurants. Currently, the company serves 76 airlines across the world.  

Talking to the Rastriya Samachar Samiti (RSS), Baral said, “Qatar Airways, the official airline partner of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, is one of the service recipients of our company”. To serve a large number of diners, he manages around 1,100 staff, including 550 kitchen staff.

After conducting the research, the team members received training on Qatari dishes and flavours from Chef Aisha Al-Tamimi, a Qatari professional. She also plans exotic cuisine for Qatar Airways passengers and crew members, he said.

The organisers involved Aisha as a trainer to add local tastes and flavours to serve guests.

“We held a workshop for our team to develop and prepare various items. The workshop included a different set of activities such as how to prepare and present the dishes, test the taste of the food and receive feedback for improvements,” Baral said.

“We  finalised the menu after the designated representatives of the Qatar government and the World Cup approved the quality and taste of the food,” he said. “Being cognizant of the host country’s priority to promote local food and flavour, we focussed on using locally available products such as chicken, vegetables, beef and spices.” 

“We were given advanced information on the arrivals of important officials for the tournament. Acting on the information, our team prepared specific cuisine accordingly and transferred the items to the stadium through chiller vans after maintaining locally and internationally stipulated standards,” he said. 

Baral’s team developed a country-specific menu and food items according to the schedule of their matches. “Our team has team-specific menus. For instance, we served fish and chips, a British favourite, when England or other European countries featured on a particular day.

“Similarly, we prepared Tagine with CousCous when Morocco featured. We served one of the best beef items for officials and teams from Argentina and Brazil. We developed a menu of Saudi Arabia's national dish Kabsa for Saudi Royals and other high officials.”

After completing all security protocols, our team serves the food to all high officials. “We served food and beverages to a number of top guests, including members of Saudi Arabia’s Royal family, Turkish President Erdogan, Indian Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar, American actor Morgan Freeman, British football legend David Beckham, and Arsenal football club manager Arsene Wenger during the opening ceremony of the World Cup on November 20,” Baral said.

Baral is a well-known name in the culinary world as a spice pundit and has so far earned his fame as ‘more than a chef’. In his career spanning more than 20 years in the culinary world, he has donned several hats from that of a writer, a charity worker, a food researcher, a food consultant, an entrepreneur, a founder of many social causes, Goodwill and Brand Ambassador of products and organisations.

Baral is a Global Goodwill Ambassador of the UK nominated by Global Goodwill Ambassador (GGA) and a Co-Founder of MOMO & ROTI in London. He is also the Brand Ambassador of Gurkha Beer and is an advisor to Support Nepal UK, a charity-based organisation registered with the Charity Commission oforg/about/). 

“Food connects people, culture and country. I follow this principle in my multiple engagements all over. I am working to connect Nepal with the United Kingdom and the rest of the world through cuisine, culture and philanthropy,” he said.

Indeed, Baral promotes Nepal around the globe through food diplomacy.  As a recognised spice pundit, he offers fine dining delicacies to officials and teams taking part in the FIFA World Cup and expands gastronomic delights in a multi-cultural milieu that Qatar has showcased.


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