New York-based TV personality is exploring how the Indian diaspora has touched the world and its evolving cuisine
By Rupali Dean
The twirling dervish blissfully rebels concord, whether it’s toppling the ethnicities of Indian cooking or conveying gratification into how we inculcate mindful eating even from a food truck!
This New York-based chef, food truck expert and TV personality is now mounting admiration with her stint as expert jury on MasterChef Tamil. Aarthi Sampath’s control over her vision and passion for Indian cooking has brought her into a number of unique spaces. Her perspective makes her Indian cooking unique.
“A very dear American friend of mine is allergic to Capsaicin, but I really wanted her to try Indian food, so I omitted chillies but didn’t compromise on flavor,” Sampath says.
“That’s the only way to get the globe to try our food. There’s nothing wrong with modifying age-old recipes to suit the audience in front of you,” she smiles.
On Chopped, it was Sampath’s first time trying snails (escargots). She was struggling to get them out of the shell. But she still made kick ass butter pepper garlic escargots that the judges loved!
Sampath is a very curious person, and loves to be immersed in all food cultures and is sincere towards ingredients. It was her curiosity that made her shift to the United States where she specialized in food service management and baking and pastry at Johnson & Wales Culinary University in Providence, Rhode Island.
“I couldn’t have existed my being not knowing what the West had to bargain and why they are constantly reflected the benchmark in the culinary world. I wanted to experience a Michelin star restaurant. And now that I have, it made me wiser,” she shares.
She got the break to intern at Junoon (of chef Vikas Khanna fame) in New York City. Aarthi speedily rose through the ranks and became Chef de Cuisine.
Later she was heading American Gymkhana, an upmarket Indian restaurant in Orlando by the founders of Junoon. In her advanced vocation, Sampath ran a fast-casual food truck called ‘Kukree’ in Seattle, which concentrated on home-grown produce, seasonality and nourishing eating which grew extensive popularity.
She beat Bobby Flay with her Hyderabadi biryani on Beat Iron. “I have a special love for my mother’s cooking which is Tamilian food. So twists on that are always intriguing.”
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“My world travels such as my last trip to Mexico got me making scratch made tortillas, slow braised birria tacos,” explains Sampath. “My last job at Chinese Tuxedo really explored elevating classic Asian dishes such as a very cool Grilled Octopus Chilli with Sichuan Pomme Frites.”
Food speaks volumes about where you grew up, the friendships and relationships, the chefs you worked with, and what you shared through your style of cooking, she says.
“I love to discover that expedition through my food. I have a deep respect for quality ingredients as they are the backbone to a dish. Robust, bold flavors are my style,” says Sampath.
“I love everything Asian, Mediterranean and South American. A combo of all these indigenous cuisines comprises my cooking style. I also raise awareness and talk about how food is so crucial in creating equality in the world”, she says.
Sampath’s USP is awareness and sensitivity. Currently she is exploring how the Indian diaspora has touched so many parts of the world and how that cuisine is evolving.
For example, Singaporeans make a fish head curry very similar to a South Indian curry, or the Xian region in China makes lamb and cumin noodles, definitely north Indian influences or spice trade.
Similarly, Ethiopian cuisine has a spice that literally mimics a simple ‘garam masala,’ explains Sampath. This exploration and cooking style will put her on the world gastronomy map in no time for sure!
(Rupali Dean is a noted food and travel writer based out of India)