When Mayor Danny Meyer appointed Floyd Cardoz to be executive chef of
his fourth restaurant pursuits, he valiantly redefined New Yorker’s
perception of Indian cooking. A native of Bombay, Cardoz has managed
to elevate Indian to a refined plane, seamlessly marrying local produce
with exotic Indian spices. Spice-crusted beef loin is vibrantly weaved
together with pickled ramps, sweet corn, chanterelles and star anise
jus. Seared stripe bass glistens in maple-tamarind. But Cardoz’ deft technique is not merely a fluke, but a product of culinary studies in Switzerland and time spent in Lespinasse’s kitchen with Gray Kunz.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor or marine biologist
How did you get into food?
I’m from Goa, a community of
food and beverage loving people. My family’s conversations regularly
revolved around food and cooking, and we were always planning our next
meal. I’ve been interested in food from a very young age, and growing
up I’d regularly hang out with our cook to snatch a few choice nuggets
before and between meals. Eventually I started helping out
here and there in the kitchen, and by nine I was making soufflé omelets
and barbequing in the neighborhood for my friends. I loved to cook but
never dreamed I would do this for a living.
transition came as I was working in a Bio-Chemistry lab doing some
experiments and reading “Arthur Halley’s Hotel”. I found myself very
impressed and intrigued by the hospitality industry and decided to make
a career change. I enrolled in a Hospitality program which included
kitchen time in the syllabus.
So you had a cook? How fancy…
Yes, we did. That was pretty normal for most middle class Indians.
The cooks prepared all the daily meals. While my mom normally made the
daily menus and oversaw what she did.
What was your first job in food?
I catered a party for
100 people at a community function for which I was paid 150 rupees
(equals $4 today). The only cooking equipment I used was a grill, an
electric roasting pan and a wood fired stove.
How long have you been at Tabla?
Since its inception 10
years ago (as executive chef and partner). It has been very exciting
to be part of the New Indian cooking movement in America.
What’s your favorite dish on Tabla’s menu?
I have two: Sweet spiced braised oxtails in winter; Rice flaked halibut with watermelon curry in summer.
What’s your least favorite dish (and yes, you must pick one)?
dislike salmon. But I keep it on the menu as so many people like
salmon. It is the only item on the menu I’ve never eaten an entire
What is your junk food of choice?
Häagen-Dazs dulce de leche ice cream and Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich.
What are your favorite three restaurant go-to’s in NYC?
Bread Bar at Tabla, Jewel Bako and Casa Mono
What culinary trend do you most embrace?
Blending traditional Indian cooking and spices with the freshest, local ingredients and American cooking techniques.
What trend do you wish would die already?
Deconstructing food to the point where it no longer tastes good.
What’s next on the horizon for you? Any new ventures or restaurants in the works? Spill the beans…
Last fall I released my first cookbook, One Spice, Two Spice. Aside from than that, I’m focusing on the restaurant.
Until we eat again,
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