Amidst an array of Indian cuisines and food enthusiasts, chef Jitender Singh had his concentration set on a watermelon as he carved out the face of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as a tribute to his heroism.

In the thoughtful gesture, Singh, who has served Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, carved out Abhinandan’s distinct and “iconic” moustache, on the watermelon, along with “Jai Hind” in Devanagari script and a couple of army men.

“I lost one of my cousins in a Jammu and Kashmir attack… I know what one goes through when your dear ones are in danger. What Abhinandan did for our country is beyond courage and bravery. Through this fruit carving, I wanted to pay a tribute to our brave pilot, our Army men and other defence forces,” Singh told IANS while competing against four other chefs in the category of Fruit and Vegetable Carving at the 14th edition of Culinary Art India (CAI) here.

Wing Commander Abhinandan had shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft on February 27 during an aerial engagement with Pakistan Air Force, but his plane was hit and he landed in Pakistani territory. He was later released by Pakistan as a “peace gesture”.

For Singh, paying tribute to Abhinandan was more important to him than winning the competition. But he scored silver for it.

“I just wanted to beautifully depict Abhinandan’s bravery through my fruit carving skills,” he said, as several visitors at the gala stopped by to see how he shaped up Abhinandan’s face on a watermelon.