Restaurateur and Indian-origin chef Floyd Cardoz, the man who told the world that there was more to Indian food than curry and chicken tikka, passed away in New York 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 Centre, New Jersey, USA.” Cardoz, who had made New York his home since the late 1980s, was 59.
Earlier this month, Cardoz was in Mumbai to celebrate the fifth anniversary of TBC and on March 5, launched The Bombay Sweet Shop, a modern take on Indian mithai. He left the city for New York on March 8. On March 17, Cardoz posted on Instagram that he had checked himself into the Mountainside Medical Centre after testing positive for COVID-19.
Widely credited with 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, it was at the 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’.
“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 the trail in the ‘90s, when he began his career in the US under the great late Gray Kunz at Lespinasse, NYC, 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 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, Cardoz became a name to reckon with when he opened 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 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 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. 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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