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Indian chef Floyd Cardoz, who introduced New York and its intelligentsia to Indian fine dining, passed away last night due to complications from the novel coronavirus. The renowned chef had admitted himself to a New Jersey hospital on March 17 as a precaution, and his sudden death has come as a shock to the culinary world. Cardoz was 59.
A Les Roches-trained superstar, Cardoz was famous for firmly planting his brand of modern Indian cuisine in both the subcontinent and the West. His gregarious nature and playful charm helped loosen American palates to the wonders of spice. He had originally trained to be a biochemist, but fate took him elsewhere.
Cardoz first made waves while cooking at Lespinasse, the fine dining mecca at New York's St Regis Hotel. He later opened his own restaurant, Tabla, in 1998 alongside Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. The Manhattan eatery quickly garnered critical acclaim for its modern rejig against the idea of 'curry eaters'. Cardoz, however, didn't become a household name until he won the third season of Top Chef Masters. But the Goan's waltz into the global consciousness seemed inevitable.
"He had an impish smile, an innate need to make those around him happy, and a delicious touch," said Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi on Twitter. "This is a huge loss...not only for the professional food world, but for Indians everywhere."
Back in India, Cardoz pushed forward as co-founder of Hunger Inc Hospitality, the award-winning name behind Mumbai restaurants O Pedro and The Bombay Canteen, both known for creative pop-ups and modern Indian fare. He also wrote two cookbooks: One Spice, Two Spice: American Food, Indian Flavors in 2006, and Floyd Cardoz: Flavorwalla: Big Flavor. Bold Spices. A New Way to Cook the Foods You Love, which was published a decade later.
Adversity rode along this 'Flavorwalla's successes, as he was a serial restaurateur. But as Soho's Pao Walla and the Bombay Bread Bar shut shop, The Bombay Sweet Shop arrived with mithai, masti and careful mayhem.
Soon after the news of Cardoz's death, tributes poured in from chefs, writers, home cooks, hoteliers and fans from around the world. This is the first major celebrity death linked to the novel coronavirus in the travel and hospitality sector.
Cardoz had recently returned to New Jersey after filming for subversive Netflix series Ugly Delicious with David Chang and Aziz Ansari. Chang, another celebrity in the New York restaurant scene, said Cardoz was 'beloved', but 'criminally under appreciated'.
He is survived by his mother Beryl, wife Barkha and sons Justin and Peter.
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