Tell us a little bit about your background and how you grew up.
I was born in London and raised in the Midwest. My mother cooked traditional vegetarian Gujarati food almost every night for dinner, everything from scratch. I was always curious about “outside food” as a child. I wanted to try all the “exotic” to me foods in America that I saw on TV and advertised in the paper. Things like meatloaf and lobster/steak were so foreign to me and I wanted to taste it all.
What drew you to food and launching your food business?
My curiosity for tasting other foods became one for cooking when I moved to San Francisco. I was in college and didn’t have the money to eat out beyond pizza & burritos so I started cooking at home and it came naturally to me. I decided to go to culinary school in 2002, and worked in restaurants for almost 10 years before starting my own restaurant Juhu Beach Club first as a pop-up in 2011 and then a brick n mortar restaurant in 2013.
Tell us about your food philosophy and the type of food you create and seek out regularly.
As a California chef I think first and foremost my cooking is rooted in seasonality and using the farm fresh organic ingredients. My cooking is influenced by the diversity of experiences I have had in my life from growing up in the UK and the US, eating traditional Indian food at home but also pizza and hamburgers. Although my food can be rule breaking and imaginative in design compared to traditional Indian cuisine, the techniques and making everything from scratch is still at the foundation. I like food that is “flavor forward”. I don’t like to cook or eat things that are “good” or “ok”, I want “WOW!”.
What is your most memorable food related experience?
Aww jeez I have SO many!! I think the first time I had Shark n Bake on the beach in Trinidad was a rather awe inspiring moment. I was only 12 years old and we walked up to this shack on the beach, and then I had this delicious sandwich with deep fried fish and the bake was so buttery and soft. And then of course all the pickles and spicy condiments on top. I was blown away.
What are you up to now and how can the Furthermore community support you? and other women working in the culinary world?
At the beginning of the pandemic we moved to Sonoma County, and now have a small orchard where we live in Sebastopol. The orchard and upcoming vegetable garden is like a part-time job and we love it!! This past year I collaborated with J Vineyards in Healdsburg on a program called Shifting The Lens, a guest chef series featuring BIPOC women chefs and their menus paired with J wines.
My big dream is to create an organization or business that serves as a hub for BIPOC, women, LGBTQ folks in food, wine and agriculture. I would like to partner with other folks to bring this dream to a reality and work to secure funding. I believe this concept will bring support, visibility, real business opportunities and community support to BIPOC, women and non-binary chefs, wine/cider makers, and farmers.
The goal of the organization and space to serve multiple purposes that would be beneficial to a fair, sustainable and healthy food system. The vision would include: a daytime cafe/bakery (with a pay it forward option), book shop focusing on food, wine & ag books, retail food, wine/cider, cooking demonstrations and classes of different cuisines or preserving, evening events featuring BIPOC chefs, authors, wine/cider makers, farmers, etc, community gather space for non-profits like Farm To Pantry (I’m on the board) and Farm Trails Sonoma. Success to me is creating an organization that thrives in its support of BIPOC, women & non-binary folks and bringing folks together to celebrate the creative abundance of our different cultures all rooted in food & agriculture.