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From Madras to Chennai- Has the Food Scene evolved?


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Change is the only constant. Everything ages, changes and evolves. This city, for instance has changed from a lovely metropolitan called Madras to an even more beautiful cosmopolitan called Chennai. What has happened over the last few years can be defined with jargons such as globalization, worldwide integration, modernization and urbanization, but they all can simply be contained under a single word, simple yet filled with a lot of meaning, Change.


Chennai Metro Urban


As the city evolved, so did its people. Hordes of them thronged Chennai from villages and towns, not just from our state, not just from our country but from all over the world. These people brought in their culture, tradition and their food. While the other factors are something that not many are ready to give a shot, food is an universally accepted exploratory. Chennai’s food scene can very well said to be altering and transforming every single day.  The best way to predict the future is to study the past so here’s a take on the past, present and future of food life in Chennai.


Tamil cuisine is known for its deep adoration and devotion towards cooking food the traditional way. This is when the streets of Mylapore got its share of vegetarian restaurants that will stand the test of time to serve customers for years together. Deep interiors such as Karaikudi and Nellai are where Non Vegetarian items were conceived. With no appliances to ease the process of cooking, lentils and rice were dehusked manually. The procedure to make masalas and rice batter from different grindstones was a tedious process but that human touch gave it the uniqueness that personified the dish itself. No wonder, recipes were handed over generation after generation and they remained as family secrets.

Restaurant serving South Indian meals. (Interior view

When it comes to hotels, simple breakfast items such as Idlis and Dosas were ruling the roost. Lunch was predominantly an array of items accompanying the ever famous epicenter, rice. People from all walks of life were enjoying these treats and only after a while, North Indian cuisine made its way south. Slowly, cuisines from the other states of our country started making its way to our table.


There has been a tremendous change in the last half a decade. Chennai has come a long way from providing all types of Indian cuisine. Now it offers the world on a plate. Food giants such as McDonalds, Subway and KFC were the first to reap their harvest in the primary flow of MNCs to our city. Though Chennai is the last metropolitan to accommodate these companies when compared with the Northern counterparts, there are no signs of slowing down for these big players who’re capitalizing on the craze.

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In the last couple of years, less known brands such as Hard Rock Café and Nandos are also seen opening up outlets in Chennai and seeing how busy they are on a weekend evening stands as a testimony to how Chennai has welcomed them with open hands. Exotic cuisines such as Lebanese and Russian are easy to get these days. International food has seeped into our city so much that some of them have even become street food of our city. Burmese Atho and Middle Eastern Shawarma are classic examples of it.


Burmese Atho edited
Burmese Atho


shawarma edited
Shawarma in the making!


Not just fine diners but even dessert parlors have spread their wings into our city. Krispy Kreme and Haagen Dazs for example, have become the hot spots when it comes to satisfying sweet tooth cravings. If the arrival of these foreign brands is one thing, getting access to the latest technology is another. Now there is the ability to buy and get food delivered right to our door step with the click of a button on our phone.  Gone are the days when waiters write orders in paper strips. Nowadays, when we place our orders at the table, by the time ordering is done; the kitchen is busy preparing what we first ordered. With the spending capacity of people at an all-time high, many restaurants are opening up in every nook and corner of the city.

Krispy Kremes Edited



With many more brands such as Taco Bell and Burger King planning to open in Chennai soon, it doesn’t look like slowing down. Drones have already started delivering chains in US to beat traffic and provide hungry customers with some hot pizzas. Robots have started replacing human staffs in restaurants in some countries. The chance of Chennai seeing them soon isn’t far up ahead. Themed establishments are getting better by the day. Fusion food has already started getting good reception and future is sure to hold a lot more twists to our current treats.

Considering the changes seen in the last couple of years, a massive transformation is happening subtly in Chennai’s food scene. The wheels are turning faster than ever and the future looks promising. At the end of the day, even after seeing everything the global cuisine has to offer, Chennai’s food scene hasn’t forgotten its humble beginnings, making idlis and filter coffee a staple food that’s available at all corners, anytime of the day.

About Relishious:

Relishious, the App that will help you look up signatures at restaurants around the city. Wait no more. Explore curations of foods that you can try when you dine out next. Download App . This blog is all about good food and it’s related experiences. You’d find just about everything that’s got something to do with good food!
Gopinath Rajendran

Gopinath Rajendran is a Biological Scientist and an International Business grad by degree, a foodie from day one and a writer ever since he figured out what pencils do. From being a helping hand to 5 star hotel chefs, washing dishes, serving food, cleaning crockeries and learning the tricks of the trade in the name of part time jobs in the evenings, to learning how Salmonella, Listeria and E.Coli ruin food in the name of Microbiology in the mornings, it’s no wonder where he got his love for food from. With an experience of two years in the food industry apart from the three years as a learner, he spent his time during his tenure in London, UK, discovering the foodie in him. Back home, he put those thoughts to words and is now an avid food reviewer. He writes for several food and travel websites and also pens the food and film reviews for the monthly magazine, Provoke.