Indian cuisine, for centuries, has been known for copious portions, less than attractive presentations, messy hands and a somewhat disagreeable day after. How then, one wonders, do Indians survive without agony? For they not only partake in the deliciousness on a daily basis, but also mock the benefits of portion control. One who eats well, prospers. And with that, they live.
During my professional years in finance, I often reflected upon this. While sipping a glass of wine and plating gobi masala tartare for a house party, I couldn’t fathom why many Indian restaurants don’t truly reveal the potential of the food. They try to coax guests into ordering the same old chicken tikka masalas and rows of naan (not naan bread, just naan!), without a trace of creativity or passion. Most cuisines in the world have evolved, so why not ours?
Two years ago I decided it was time. As we settled into our new lives in Manhattan, I gave up career in investment banking to become a private chef. I was going to design dinner parties to tell a unique story––a story about Indian flavors, home-style simplicity, bold fusion and nurturing seasonal sophistication. A story about balance, eating with your eyes, understanding spices and letting your mind wander. A story about India with an imagination. And all while giving curry a facelift.
My food is expressive. Each plate is put together for a reason. It reflects the seasons, places traveled, and my deep-rooted heritage of cooking with spices. I believe if the French have a gougere, we can adopt it too. If Italians rave about a pasta, why not try it with chutney? And if Americans want curry, I’ll make it “new.” Don’t get me wrong, I have utmost respect and regard for all cuisines, and don’t believe in undermining the skill of any. What I do believe in though is learning from them, and using that finesse to revamp ours.
In my mind, with this effort I did something profound. Taking simple, everyday cooking techniques and dishes, and marrying them with global styles, art and palettes to create unique tasting menus. Meals that don’t limit you. Meals that help you travel to various parts of India in one seating. Meals that can be shared. Meals that don’t always end up in a bowl with a bunch of cilantro on top! And the discussions, immersive ideas, collaborations and stories that run my dinner table are only testament to the fact that any food, when done right, can change perceptions.
Indian dinners can now be just as sophisticated, experimental, progressive and worthy as any sought after dining experience out there. And I, still sipping my wine and plating my gobi masala tartare, can smile with pride knowing that I started a tiny storm.