Chef Roshni Gurnani’s earliest memory of cooking is having her own mini rolling pin set and of rolling out chapatis next to her mother. The first meal she ever cooked was at the age of 5 when she whipped up some eggs and toast. By the time she was 13, she was working at a local Toronto restaurant.
No surprise then that for Gurnani, food was destiny.
She became the winning contestant on the popular Food Network show Chopped, and also participated in Hell’s Kitchen. She went on to become executive chef at an elite club, supervising a staff of 22. She is now part of 5 Star Chefs, noted chefs who travel and cook around the country. Food has certainly taken Chef Rosh, as she is popularly known, full circle.
Who would have thought Tribeca would turn into an outpost of Southern cooking – dosa, uttapam and sambhar, that is! For those who thought they have to go to Chennai or at least to Jackson Heights or Curry Hill for their sambhar and dosa hankerings, the place to head to is – Whole Foods Market.
Early immigrants would have just about fainted if they had heard that America’s tres chic Whole Foods supermarket has now got their finger-lickin’ fiery sambhar and choice of dosas and uttapams too.
Hari Nayak’s Semolina Dosa with Pulled Butter Chicken with Brie Cheese – recipe!
There was a time in America when Indian food, like Rodney Dangerfield, got no respect. Westerners (and some embarrassed Indians) tried to eat rotis with knife and fork, complained of the greasiness and the smell of the cuisine, and thought Indian food began and ended with ‘curry’.
That was then – this is now!
In our new global world, Indian cuisine is hot – and cool! Everyone seems to understand the language of Indian food, Indian chefs are stars and Indian cuisine has many fans, is anointed by Michelin and Zagat, and is the subject of great reviews. So it was inevitable that a glamorous award ceremony celebrating these successes would be next – the Varli Global Culinary Awards for the best and brightest in Indian cuisine…
Get into the kitchen with noted chef Maneet Chauhan and it’s a daring marriage between Indian spices and ingredients from around the world. Chauhan, who’s cooked up a storm in India and the US, including the critically acclaimed Vermilion, is now working on two cookbooks and is a judge on Food Network’s Chopped. Here she shares some of her unusual recipes which pair the quintessentially desi masalas like Sambhar powder and pau bhaji masala with unlikely items like edamame and olives, which are rarely used in Indian cuisine.
“In the Hindi language, there are no sweeter words than ‘Muh Meetha Karwaho’ – ‘Make Your mouth Sweet’ – and any occasion of joy needs a sweet ending. Something about the idea of how no meal was truly complete without a sweet bite and how every major celebration, gathering and even religious event is commemorated with sweets has resonated with me.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say, ‘Make your mouth sweet’, but I do it happily every time. However, it is Diwali that I especially remember from my childhood because it featured an abundance of sweets.”
Sponsored Guest Blog by Shefalee Patel
She’s a svelte and golden goddess with a cooking utensil in her hand and she’s coveted by all those in the world of cuisine.
We’re talking of course of the Varli Culinary Award, in the form of a lithe sculpture – and now the most talented chefs are going to be able to take her home as a testimony to their cooking talent.
On November 15, foodies, chefs and restaurateurs will gather for the first Varli Culinary Awards at the Altman Building in New York City to honor the best talents in Indian cuisine. The chief judge of the evening is renowned cooking authority Sanjeev Kapoor whose show ‘Khana Khazana’ is a huge hit on TV. The hosts for the evening are popular New York actors Manu Narayan and Pooja Kumar.
“I have to say that I was very blessed as a child as I grew up in a family that was blessed with great cooks! My dad is amazing at making meat based dishes, my mother – I think she should be called the Vegetable Whisperer – has a delightful way with vegetables and pretty much my entire extended family either cooks well or knows where to take you for a great meal!
My fondest memory as a child is sitting in the kitchen with my dad and watching him cook his legendary butter chicken. Not only did I know the dish would turn out amazing (it always did) but it was a time for us to connect and talk about his world travels. I adored listening to his stories and was thrilled whenever he would make this dish as it meant he would be in a mood (and have time) to talk!”
Monica Bhide chats with the Single Desi on Food, Family – and recipes for the perfect date!
You will never look at Brussels sprouts the same way again after this you try this recipe. While they are not a traditional Indian vegetable, Brussels sprouts have found their way into my kitchen. Honestly, I first tried them to see why so many Americans disliked them!
Diwali in America is all about innovation and creating new traditions and each family follows its past rituals but also adds in new ones. Indeed, Floyd Cardoz, the celebrated chef of North End Grill in Manhattan, is a Catholic married to Barkha, a Hindu, and is an avid celebrator of Diwali.
“Even though Floyd and I come from different religious backgrounds, our kids are lucky and blessed to be able to celebrate both holidays,” says Barkha. “They absolutely love Diwali – we do Lakshmi puja in the evening and then it’s followed by the food that is a tradition from when I was a little girl – Pooris with aloo rassa, makhani dal, a paneer dish, gobi sabji, lots of mithai and then the all time favorite – sabudana kheer.”
(Barkha Cardoz with extended family at the Diwali table)
After being the chef at Vermilion, the acclaimed Indian-Latin fusion restaurants in Chicago and New York for eight years and the first Indian woman to be a competitor on The Iron Chef and The Next Iron Chef, what do you do for an encore?
Well, if you’re Maneet Chauhan, you take a break. You go have a baby, become a judge on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’, work on two cook books and plan a new restaurant in Nashville, TN, partnering with the M Street Restaurant Group.
Here Maneet shares her life and recipes with Lassi with Lavina readers!
Once upon a time three young rising chefs were handed shrimp, an immaculate kitchen. limited time and a medley of ingredients to orchestrate into an award-winning new shrimp masterpiece. They dashed and they mashed, they mixed and they fixed, they chopped and they pureed as a lineup of pedigreed judges and VIP guests watched with bated breath and hungry stomachs.
The event was Varli’s ‘Rising Star Chef 2012’ live competition at Junoon featuring chefs under the age of 35 – Bhavesh Patel (Moghul Caterers), Shravan Shetty (Urban Spice), and Sylva Senat (Tashan). Each created a signature entrée and served a tasting to the celebrity panel of judges – noted chef Jehangir Mehta of Graffiti and Mehtaphor; restaurateur Rajesh Bhardwaj, and award-winning cook book authors Monica Bhide and Ramin Ganeshram.
Sacrilege or a seduction? Chocolate Dosa!
The other day wandering in the pleasurable desi by-lanes of Jackson Heights, admiring the mounds of mangoes, lychees and papayas, I stopped at Dosa Delight, a small family-type vegetarian eatery. There along with the traditional idli, medhu vada and Pondicherry Dosa was – Chocolate Dosa!
Now this is not a gourmet city restaurant but a tried and tested homey Southern outpost. So how did something as contrary as Chocolate Dosa find its way here? And could I have a taste?
Why is the langar such a remarkable meal?
“It’s the simplicity of it. The humbleness of service. The server and the served work like a complete circle of Universe.
Sitting on the floor in simple lines define the equality of us all.
The way everyone prepares, cooks, the energy, the chanting is all about seva and sharing. It’s truly remarkable that how much pride Sikhs take in even cleaning. It’s a Utopian experience.”
– Vikas Khanna
Who’s Matt? And who’s Meera? Well, Matt & Meera is the name of chef Hari Nayak’s newest venture, a happening new cafe in the heart of Hoboken, NJ, which is fast coming up as a young, multicultural haven. Nayak saw so many young intercultural couples in this area that he decided to take two typical Indian and American names – Matt and Meera – and combine them for his cafe.
“American food is a combination of so many different cuisines today and I like to give it a flavor punch with ingredients and spices from India and around the world,” says Nayak. “I don’t want to eat heavy Indian food every day but whether it’s a slice of pizza or a bowl of salad, I want to give it an Indian touch.”
Nayak, whose popular cook book ‘Modern Indian’ touched upon this very subject, goes fun and light at Matt & Meera, with American comfort foods to which he has added his own desi twist.
At his new cafe Matt & Meera in Hoboken, NJ, noted chef Hari Nayak has Indianized American comfort foods with spices and ingredients. Here he shares his recipes for the Matt & Meera Lamb Burgers and masala chips, which are baked, not fried. Ah, the little bonuses in life!
There are not too many chefs who can cook for humans and the gods with equal panache but New York chef Vikas Khanna is certainly one of them. He has helped cook langar at the Golden Temple, exchanged hugs with Amma and also created gourmet dishes at the high-end New York restaurant, Junoon. Not to mention cooking a Satvic meal at the White House!
Yet this celebrity chef started out unsung and unknown in a simple, middle-class family in Amritsar. Growing up, Vikas’ life was different from that of other kids who would be running around, playing cricket and climbing trees. He had a disability as his feet were not aligned.
“Where I found my shelter was in the kitchen. Simple, home-cooked meals became like prasad for me, and Biji, my grandmother, my priest. She didn’t teach me recipes, she taught me the power of food to heal, to connect people.”