It’s a proud moment for Indians as Mumbai-born Chef Floyd Cardoz was crowned the winner of Top Chef Masters , season three. A spin-off of the popular TV show Top Chef , Top Chef Masters has professional chefs competing to win money for his/her designated charity. Chef Cardoz will be donating his $100,000 prize to the Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund at Mount Sinai Medical School, New York. Chef Cardoz was behind the trendy, Indian restaurant Tabla in Manhattan and now he’s gearing up for the launch of his new seafood centric restaurant North End Grill. He spoke to us about the question on everyone’s mind, why he chose upma to be part of his final dish.
How does it feel to be the winner of Top Chef Masters?
FC: It feels great to get recognition as an Indian chef in the west where Indian chefs aren’t taken as seriously as our western counterparts.
Why did you decide to partake in the competition?
FC: I wanted to bring attention to Indian cuisine and show people that it’s much more than just spicy curries and that it can easily be adapted to anyone’s taste. Of course I also wanted to make the money for my charity.
Did you think you would win?
FC: You always hope you win a competition but I feel that if you become obsessed with the idea of winning you tend to lose your soul and who you are, I didn’t want to do that.
Why did you decide to make upma as part of your final dish?
FC: I have fond memories of having upma when I would come home after school and I wanted to make it user friendly to the west. So I changed the texture of the dish, added ingredients like mushrooms and it became another version of the upma we’re used to eating.
What was your inspiration throughout the competition?
FC: I wanted to translate what was in my heart and soul into everything I did. I can’t be a good cook if I’m not happy, and if there’s nothing of myself in every dish I prepare. It’s not about how a meal looks on a plate, it’s about how you feel making it and how your guest feels eating it.
Why did you move to the U.S?
FC: I joined the Taj after I completed catering college and at that time there weren’t very many educated people in the kitchen. It was hard being in the business so I decided to go to Europe and studied at Les Roches and saw how differently chefs were treated. After I finished school I came back to Mumbai and joined the Oberoi and noticed things hadn’t really changed. That’s when I decided I wanted to move to the U.S.
What’s your favorite cuisine?
FC: It’s tough for me to choose a single cuisine, I just love food.
What does it take to be a chef?
FC: You have to not only be an excellent cook but you also have to ensure you get others to execute your vision, run a successful business, balance finances and inspire people.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in Mumbai?
FC: I love all the coastal places like Mahesh Lunch Home, Trishna and Soul Fry. I also love Britannia for berry pulao, Kailash Parbath, Bade Miyan and Olympia for kheema.
5 ingredients you can’t do without:
FC: Salt, black pepper (from India), dhania seeds, ginger and bacon.
FC: Yes, you can put bacon in anything and it will taste good. Try adding bacon to pulao, you’ll relish it.
Besides preparing for your new restaurant, what are your plans for the future?
FC: I’d like to open up restaurants across India, it’s been on my mind for the past four years and I hope to get started on it soon.