New York City – The folks at Saveur, an award-winning international dining magazine, are self-proclaimed fanatics when it comes to helping readers “savor a world of authentic cuisine.” Like a trusted friend who can’t resist sharing a good recipe with you, they pride themselves on preaching the glories of the best food and drink wherever they find it. And they pack their most zealous and fervent recommendations into their popular Saveur 100 issue – an annual list of “favorite restaurants, food, drink, people, places and things.” This year that list included the cuisine of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) – under the heading “A Faith that Nourishes,” the magazine deemed Hare Krishna temple dining halls “one of the best restaurant chains in the world.”
The entire entry, reproduced below, has much praise for the Krishna consciousness movement’s kitchen skills. “We always seek out the nearest [Hare Krishna temple] for a satisfying, meatless meal,” the magazine reports, adding that the “Hare Krishna brand of Westernized Indian food renews our spirits every time.” The magazine especially recommends attending the Sunday Feast program held at ISKCON temples worldwide.
The culinary kudos came after a Saveur reporter – who had apparently been introduced to ISKCON in his youth through “Krishna-core” bands like Shelter and 108, and had eaten prasadam (sanctified vegetarian food) at temples and Govinda’s restaurants– contacted the ISKCON temple in Brooklyn, New York. He stopped by, sampled the regular menu, and was so impressed that he decided to use the New York temple as the model for Hare Krishna dining halls around the world. He set up a photographer to visit as well.
The Saveur’s piece includes a color picture of Satya Devi Dasi, Vice President of the temple and resident catering mastermind, in traditional devotional attire and holding a bowl of cabbage subji.
For the devotees at the temple, home to Sri Sri Radha Govinda deities, the media attention confirmed the need to re-focus on prasadam distribution. After a six-year hiatus, the devotees have resumed their successful Govinda’s lunch club program, serving a full menu from 11:30 am to 3:00pm daily. In addition, the devotees provide a wide array of catering services.
Temple president Ramabhadra Dasa feels that the Saveur article has already started to make a positive impact. “Catering orders have increased,” he said, “and the potential success for a [full-scale] restaurant is apparent”¦. The food must be good, and the atmosphere and customer relations must be good. If those elements are there then lack of the best location is less likely to make or break you.”
ISKCON Founder-Acarya A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada placed great emphasis on prasadam as a part of spiritual life – so much so that he is believed to have light-heartedly referred to the Hare Krishna movement as “the kitchen religion.” Prabhupada also famously prophesized that New York City could be “conquered by prasadam distribution.”
An interesting post-script: the Saveur magazine which includes the Hare Krishna write-up is, appropriately enough, issue number 108.
With reporting from Caitanyananda Dasa
Source: Saveur magazine