Floyd Cardoz, the pioneer of ‘new Indian cuisine’, dies at 59
Written by Pooja Pillai | Published: March 25, 2020 10:22:18 pm In India Cardoz became a name to reckon with, with the opening of The Bombay Canteen (TBC) in 2015, along with entrepreneurs Sameer Seth and Yash Bhanage, followed by O Pedro in...
Pathbreaking Indian chef and restaurateur Floyd Cardoz, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 last week, succumbed to the virus on Wednesday, becoming another casualty of the pandemic. In a statement issued late on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Hunger Inc. Hospitality, the company founded by Cardoz in Mumbai which runs the popular restaurants The Bombay Canteen and O Pedro, confirmed that Cardoz passed away on March 25 in New Jersey, USA. “Floyd tested positive for Covid-19, in USA, on March 18 and was being treated for the same at Mountainside Medical Centre, New Jersey, USA,” read the statement. Cardoz was 59.
Widely considered a pioneer in bringing the diversity and complexity of Indian cuisine to the world’s notice, Cardoz grew up in Bandra, Mumbai. Fascinated by the idea of a career in hospitality, he graduated from the city’s Institute of Hotel Management, Dadar, which is where he discovered his talent for cooking. After training at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai in the early ‘80s, he went to Les Roches School of Hotel Management in Switzerland. In the late ‘80s he moved to New York City, USA, the city where he would evolve the “New Indian Cuisine” that he became known for. “He was the first flag-bearer of new Indian cuisine in America, bringing dishes apart from chicken tikka masala, chaat and the regular curry. He introduced other Indian snacks and South Indian and Goan curries,” said chef Manish Mehrotra of Indian Accent.
Few Indian chefs have made a mark on the global culinary scene, especially in the USA: Gaggan Anand who ran the eponymous Gaggan in Bangkok until August of last year is perhaps the most well-known Indian chef in the world, while in the USA, both Suvir Saran – who was executive chef at Devi, NYC, and currently runs House of Celeste in Gurugram – and Srijith Gopinath of Taj Campton Place, San Francisco, earned Michelin Stars. But Cardoz, even though the Michelin Star eluded him, blazed the trail back in the ‘90s, when he began his career in the country under the late great Gray Kunz at Lespinasse, NYC, graduating quickly from salad chef to sous-chef to chef de cuisine.
It was, however, the Indian fusion restaurant Tabla, opened in NYC in 1998 that established him as a true culinary star in a city that is known to be especially tough on restaurants. The restaurant, opened in partnership with restaurateur Danny Meyer, closed in 2012 and the duo then opened and ran an American-style bar and grill called North End Grill, until it closed in 2018. Cardoz also ran the hugely popular Bombay Bread Bar – originally called Paowalla, a throwback to his origins in Mumbai’s Goan Catholic community – from 2016 to September last year. Chef Vicky Ratnani, who describes Cardoz as the “gateway for Indian cuisine” in NYC, remembers the chef for the affability that won him much goodwill in NYC’s culinary scene. “He made a connection with different people, so much so that throughout the chef fraternity, anytime people got to know that I am from India, they would talk to me about Floyd,” he said.
In India, however, Cardoz became a name to reckon with, with the opening of The Bombay Canteen (TBC) in 2015, along with entrepreneurs Sameer Seth and Yash Bhanage, followed by O Pedro in 2017. Both restaurants – the former showcasing the richness and diversity of Indian produce and cooking and the latter celebrating Goan cuisine – were an extension of Cardoz’s “New Indian Cuisine” sensibilities. According to chef Manu Chandra, of Monkey Bar and Toast and Tonic, Cardoz “helped make Indian food cool to Indians in India.” He said, “Bombay Canteen and O Pedro are testaments to both Floyd’s vision and his ability to carry a fabulous team along with his very talented partners to set up truly global products in our own backyards.”
Cardoz was most recently in Mumbai to celebrate the fifth anniversary of TBC and for the launch of Hunger Inc Hospitality’s third venture, The Bombay Sweet Shop, a modern take on Indian mithai, which opened on March 5. He left the city for New York on March 8, according to a statement shared by Hunger Inc on March 18. This was in response to an Instagram post by Cardoz the previous day in which he said that he had checked himself into the Mountainside Medical Centre after testing positive for Covid-19. The hospitality company later put out a statement saying that, as a precautionary measure, the Mumbai health department had been informed of the diagnosis. “We are also reaching out personally to people who have interacted with him during his visit to India, so they can take necessary medical advice should they indicate any symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) and/ or self-quarantine,” it stated. Cardoz is survived by his mother Beryl, wife Barkha and sons Justin and Peter.
(With inputs from Benita Fernando)ins