From Chopped to Hell’s Kitchen to Country Clubs – Indian Food!
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 Gordon Ramsey’s 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 Roshni has come full circle.
Here she shares her thoughts and her recipes.
12 Questions for Chef Roshni
1. Growing up in Canada, how did you get connected with Indian food and who were the people who inspired you?
Growing up in Canada in an East Indian family, we would enjoy Indian food daily. My parents made it a point that we learnt about our culture, religion and food. I remember going to the temple on weekends and helping in the kitchens over there. I guess the people around me really inspired me to do what I enjoy most.
2. Tell us about your journey as a cook, the schools, the first jobs and the struggles.
My first job was at a local diner at the age of 13, bussing tables and prepping vegetables. It was here my passion and love for food grew. I decided that I wanted to take this further, and during high school I did my internship at a local hotel in the kitchen. I then went on to The Culinary Institute of Canada where I formally started my career.
3. How did you land up on the cooking shows and become the winner? Fill us on the details.
I never thought I would be on a cooking show, let alone two! It really just happened by chance. I applied to Chopped not thinking I would get selected, and when I was, like any chef, I was excited. I just went into the competition staying true to myself and cooking with my heart and it worked. I was awarded Chopped Champion.
Hell’s Kitchen was a show I watched since I was a teenager. When I applied, I knew there were 100,000 other people applying too. It took over a year of interviews and meeting before the network came to their selection of 18 Chefs. I was lucky enough to be selected. A great experience!
4. You are now living in America – how did that come about and where do you work now?
After Culinary school, I traveled and worked around the world. Asia, UK, USA and then moved back to Canada for a year or so. It wasn’t until I got married that I moved to Boston where my husband was working. We lived there for about two years and have recently moved to Houston where we both work. I am an executive chef and consultant here.
5. You’ve also worked at an elegant country club – What was that experience like?
Elkins Lake was the reason I moved to Houston. It is a private country club that hired me as their Executive Chef. Here I had a staff of 22 kitchen members and was in charge of daily a la carte orders as well as all catering events.
Working in the private club, the demands of members were high – there wasn’t any request too big or too small that we didn’t fulfill. It was a fun challenge, everyday was something new. Here I learned about Southern Cuisine and the love and attachment Texans have for it. I worked here until the evening I went into labor! I recently resigned at Elkins Lake to spend more time with my son and focus more on 5 Star Chefs.
6. What does your family think of your cooking adventures?
At first like many Indian parents, my parents had a dream of me becoming a lawyer, but when they realized this wasn’t going to be the case, they weren’t the happiest parents. But over time and seeing and being a part of my success, they are excited about all the new adventures that come my way.
7. Tell us about 5 Star Chefs and your other cooking roles right now.
5 Star Chefs are a group of Chefs across America that travel and do cooking demos, classes, appearances and charity events. Personally I am traveling a lot now making appearances and doing a lot of cooking demos at different Chef Expos and Culinary Schools. I also cater privately and do private cooking classes.
8. What are the dishes you most like to cook and why?
I love cooking with fresh ingredients. I don’t have a favorite dish to cook but I enjoy using local, fresh ingredients and different blends of spices.
9. Any fun anecdotes to share from your foodie career? How was it to work in Goa?
To be a chef you need passion and you have to love the industry, otherwise it’s the hardest job in the world. The industry is a hard place to be, you really need to work hard to ground your feet in it. Goa was one of the toughest yet best jobs I ever had. I really learnt strong foundations there and use those skills daily.
10. What are the exciting things that you are involved with on the horizon.
I am traveling a lot, speaking with young culinary students, and doing demos as various events. I am also currently working on a book and I have just become a new mom – both extremely exciting and challenging!
11. You are of Sindhi origin – do you celebrate the Sindhi dishes and how?
I feel Sindhi food is yet to put itself on the map. Apart from Sindhi Curry and Papad, there is a lot more to our cuisine. I am working hard on familiarizing people with the flavors of Sind.
12. What would you like to accomplish in your cooking career?
My ultimate dream is to have people respect food and its origins. I would love to educate people on food and different ingredients. The magic of creating something from nothing. So I guess, be an ambassador or teacher of food, food trends, techniques, and origins.
A Touch of India – Fusion Sushi
Chef Roshni shares three of her signature recipes in this article.