Chef Suvir Saran
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Credit: @ Suvir Saran
I came to the US at age 20, seventeen years ago. While I was attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City, I found myself most happy cooking and entertaining for friends and strangers at my small apartment. Word spread and soon I was requested almost weekly to cook for friends or theirs. Sometimes just for a handful and at other times for scores of people. After a few years, someone suggested I considered catering. I had never done cooking for money, never thought of it as anything I was interested in. I just fell into it.
Dévi, my restaurant gives me a place whereby I can share the magical cuisine of the Indian diaspora. A people that can be found across the planet and always living fully, wholly and immersed in the environs and still maintaining some connection to the motherland. This connection most often comes from cooking foods that might be local to the adopted country, but still reflect a playful connection to India. With this in mind I wrote my second cookbook, American Masala, which highlights the foods served at our table at home.
As a young man feeling homesick in New York City, I was unable to find an Indian cookbook that did justice to the wondrous home dishes that I had grown up eating at home and at the houses of family members and friends across the many different regions of India. I was happy eating the foods of India, in my New York City apartment. This brought many new people into my life. Indians live to eat and live well doing that. We are delighted to eat outside, but our restaurant cuisine and home cuisine are very different. In the Indian home kitchen, food is treated like it is not in most cultures. Dévi was my way of giving friends, family members in the US and those that were curious for Indian cuisine unlike what was understood as being Indian, something new to enjoy.
My life at our farm, American Masala Farm in Hebron, New York has changed me drastically in just four years. Now I crave even simpler and more honest cooking. Living at the farm has made me enjoy simplicity for what it ought to be enjoyed. “Less is more” is not a trend for us, it is our life. We began with the idea of having a country home for the weekend and then it turned into our main house. I am glad it did. It has gifted us with experiences money cannot buy and a weekend would never afford, even after a lifetime of weekends.
With this new knowledge, I find myself teaching, writing, cooking and sharing in ways I would not have been able in the past. My only demand from my partner Charlie was to ensure we had animals at the farm if that is where he wanted to live. The idea of living in the country and being separated from what makes country life special was of no interest. We now find ourselves enjoying 120 chickens, 40 dairy goats, eight Leicester Longwool sheep, the breed first brought into the US by Washington and Jefferson, 40 plus geese and just as many ducks, 30 or so guinea hens, two alpacas and tons of wildlife, including an albino deer born earlier this year.
- Likes: Way too many to list. Indian Classical Music, Ghazals from India, Pakistan and the Northwest Frontier, food, family, good harmless gossip and friends are what keeps me ticking.
- Dislikes: The hyperbole, the hysteria and the fluff that seems to have gripped our mindset in today’s world.
- All Time Favorite Restaurants: Ino, Moustache, Tanoreen, Marnee Thai (SF), Lemongrass (Sacramento), Salumeria Rosi.
- Foods I cannot live without: Eggs cooked perfectly, or left raw; Indian or Indian-inspired vegetarian fare that renders non-vegetarianism somewhat irrelevant, at least sometimes ; Pasta cooked the Italian way; Desserts, home-made but with care and panache; Lentils and Rice from the many different cultures that enjoy them. Perfect comfort food; Rishta, Lebanese lentil soup; Chaat – Indian street food; Dinner served at our farm table using as many local ingredients as possible, shared with neighbors, family and friends.
Brunch: Balthazar Fancy: Asiate at night for dinner, enjoying views of Central Park. Best Value: Moustache on Bedford Street Bar Scene/Drinks: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Business Lunch: Four Seasons Restaurant with Julian Niccolini when planning my menu....
I don’t know how it happened, but I’ve developed quite a fondness (and following) for my versions of Southern classics like fried chicken, biscuits, and even banana cream pie. Indian food is all about layers of flavor, so I approach these...
In India, we look to add flavor to food using spices and cooking techniques, not stock. So instead of weighing risotto down with chicken broth, I instead fry herbs in butter and oil to make a tarka, a seasoned oil stirred into food to brighten its flavor...
This is basic country food at its finest. Lisa Smith, the executive chef for Central Market supermarkets in Texas, was visiting us at the farm and one morning we brought her to Max London’s in Saratoga Springs for breakfast. Their croissants blew...