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Floyd Cardoz, man who ‘helped make Indian food cool’, dies of coronavirus in New Jersey

Floyd Cardoz, who grew up in Bandra, Mumbai, is widely credited with bringing the diversity and complexity of Indian cuisine to the world’s notice.

Written by Pooja Pillai | New Delhi | Updated: March 26, 2020 9:33:58 am
Floyd Cardoz, man who ‘helped make Indian food cool’, dies of coronavirus in New York Floyd Cardoz tested positive for coronavirus on March 18, 10 days after he left India

Restaurateur and Indian-origin chef Floyd Cardoz, the man who introduced the world to Indian food beyond curry and chicken tikka, passed away in New Jersey on Wednesday after testing positive for coronavirus a week ago.

In a statement issued late on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Hunger Inc. Hospitality, the company Cardoz founded in Mumbai in 2015 and which runs the popular The Bombay Canteen (TBC) and O Pedro restaurants, said, “Floyd tested positive for COVID-19, in USA, on March 18 and was being treated for the same at Mountainside Medical Center, New Jersey, USA.” He was 59.

Earlier this month, Cardoz was in Mumbai to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his TBC and to launch The Bombay Sweet Shop, a modern take on Indian mithai, before leaving for New York on March 8. On March 17, Cardoz posted on Instagram that he had checked himself into the Mountainside Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19.

Cardoz, who grew up in Bandra, Mumbai, is widely credited with bringing the diversity and complexity of Indian cuisine to the world’s notice. Fascinated by the idea of a career in hospitality, it was at the city’s Indian Institute of Hotel Management, Dadar, from where he graduated, that he discovered his talent for cooking. After training at the Taj Mahal Intercontinental Hotel and The Oberoi 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, the city where he would evolve his trademark ‘New Indian Cuisine’, a modern reimagining of Indian cuisine.

“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.

Cardoz blazed a trail in the ‘90s, when he began his career in the US under the great late Gray Kunz at the Lespinasse restaurant in New York, graduating quickly from chef de partie to chef de cuisine.

Though the Michelin star eluded him, he was among the few Indian chefs to have made a mark on the global culinary scene, besides Gaggan Anand, Suvir Saran and Srijith Gopinath.

It was, however, the Indian fusion restaurant Tabla, which he 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 ran a seasonal American restaurant called North End Grill, until Cardoz left to join the swanky White Street as executive chef and partner in 2014. From 2018 to September last year, Cardoz also ran the hugely popular Bombay Bread Bar, originally opened as Paowalla in 2016, a throwback to his origins in Mumbai’s Goan Catholic community.

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 the city he made his home. “He made a connection with different people, so much so that anytime anyone from the chef fraternity got to know that I was from India, they would talk to me about Floyd,” he said.

In India, Cardoz became a name to reckon with when he opened TBC in 2015, along with entrepreneurs Sameer Seth and Yash Bhanage, followed by O Pedro in 2017. Both restaurants — the former showcasing seasonal and regional Indian food and the latter celebrating Goan cuisine — were an extension of Cardoz’s ‘New Indian Cuisine’ philosophy.
Chef Manu Chandra of Monkey Bar and Toast and Tonic said, “Bombay Canteen and O Pedro are a testament 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 backyard. He helped make Indian food cool to Indians in India.”

After his Instagram post on March 17, declaring his corona-positive status, Hunger Inc. Hospitality had released 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,” the statement read.

Cardoz is survived by his mother Beryl, wife Barkha and sons Justin and Peter.

With inputs from Benita Fernando

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