Chefs with Issues – Suvir Saran on HIV/AIDS activism
January 13th, 2011
04:30 PM ET
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Editor's note: Read "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS," an AC360° special report.

New Delhi-born Suvir Saran is the executive chef of Dévi restaurant in New York City, where his authentic Indian flavors earned one Michelin star in 2007 and 2008, as well as two stars from The New York Times and three stars from New York Magazine.

He is also the author of "Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes" and "American Masala: 125 New Classics From My Home Kitchen."

This is the first in a two-part interview with Saran on the subject of HIV/AIDS activism, the disease's impact on the food world and his personal life, his identity as an Indian and a gay man and the healing power of a good meal.

Read part two

How did food help you to connect to the community?

After coming to the US, I started studies as a student of the visual arts and also working in retail. Each night I would cook dinners for friends and their friends. Each night brought new faces and new personalities into my world. A large number of those who came into my world in the early 90's were people that had been affected with HIV/AIDS personally and through loved ones. Seeing people one day and then hearing they had gone the next day or week or month, was one of the most difficult things to come to grips with.

Often the foods I prepared at these parties would incite some awe, give comfort and solicit wonderful reactions. One guest exclaimed at one of the gatherings that he wished he could have a bowl of my rice pudding every night until he passed away. He was so young and so vital, yet he was being eaten away by this disease. I was not able to give him many bowls of the pudding before he was robbed from our world by the disease. This haunts me to this date. I feel terrible that I did not bring him a bowl each day.

Another friend of mine, the proprietor of a great small cafe in NYC died of HIV/AIDS just a couple of years ago. His family again kept this a secret, or at the very least denied it. In doing so, they also kept us friends that knew this fact away from their son, who was also one of our dearest friends.

This friend of mine had given me comfort and a warm welcome when I was new in the US. I cried for days and months and still shed tears when I grasp the fact that his family denied us his company and him ours. In living a lie they felt they had succeeded in some botched manner. But in doing so, they robbed their son, and those that loved him of contact that could have healed and given hope.

While you are not HIV+, how would you address incorrect stigmas such as an HIV+ chef would transmit the disease to his patrons?

For me as a chef who is not HIV positive, it is imperative to insure my work environment is as free of prejudice of all kinds as can be. I hire managers who train all employees to be aware, generous of self and understand what it means to be HIV positive or a minority of any kind. They must understand that at any given point, our notions of what is correct or wrong could be challenged.

A trained team of professionals at a restaurant can offer an educated response to any bigotry that may come up. The responses have to be shared with clarity of thought, without anger or condescension - in a friendly manner, and with some stories thrown in about a personal connection that might resonate with a diner who might have concerns.

Luckily for me I have yet to face such a challenge. I am sure in my lifetime I could. Being gay, being a foreigner and speaking with an accent has posed umpteen such challenges in my life. I tackle such ignorance face on.

If I smell a bigot around me, I am never scared to make a statement, even during a class, or presentation, right from the stage.

It does help that my parents have blessed me with a roof over my head if no one were to ever employ me. That comfort gives me more impetus to do what is correct and make tough choices that others not be able to make. I may not have stardom and cookbooks, but I would still sleep with pride, knowing I did the right thing rather than the easier thing in a testy situation.

At my restaurant, all our staff know I am gay and I have never hidden that fact. My father often shares my sexual orientation with friends and family members rather openly. I wonder often if he does that to disarm gossip behind his back. It is such honesty that is the best teacher and comforting pillar of strength in life.

On the healing power of food

My father had liver failure and was treated and transplanted with a new liver in Denver, Colorado. He was taken care of by a wonderful team of specialists at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

He from India for the transplant. As they were leaving the airport in India to fly to Denver, my mother and some aunts in India had warned my sister and me to be brave and not allow our emotions to show on our faces as we greeted my father at the airport. He was very gaunt, skinny and yellow. A grown man in his late 50's was barely 90 pounds. Not a pleasant sight. We thank our stars my mother had warned us. We all pretended that his look was nothing that frightened us. When indeed it was beyond frightening. It was the look of death staring us at the face.

Why do I share this story? Because in some ways family, a sense of community and belonging to it, and food is what saved his life and kept him alive till a cadaver liver was found. The doctors were shocked as to how my father was still able to crave food. Most patients this sick, especially with diseases that lead patients to such end-stage experiences, hardly have food on their mind.

Somehow the tastes that my father remembered led him to build an appetite to eat or at least dream of eating. He would tell me my mother and me to cook dishes that he thought he craved, or perhaps did for sure.

In end he would eat only a few tablespoons of them, but that ensured he got at least some nutrition that was not tubed into him. This was the miracle that many who saw him were shocked by. It gave my sister, mother and I something to do for a man we loved so dearly. It gave him some craving and also some hope... even if only very small in quantity as far as the enjoyment of it went.

When I reflect on his look at that time, I also remember others with HIV/AIDS and other illnesses at the last stage of their lives. I remember how friends and family members who have died of complications from this disease and even cancer or other illnesses, often smile and show new life even if briefly when lusting after foods their mind is craving, even if the body cannot eat much of.

This gives the community of chefs and restaurateurs and front and back staff an opportunity to create safe havens where those who might not feel great or look great, can come and spend some hours with loved ones. It also is something for each of us to remember as we deal with such issues in our familiar and social circles.

We all know someone who is sick, or have known someone who was sick. Maybe next time around, we can indulge them and our own selves by asking this person what it is they love to eat most and cook it for them. The patient gets to enjoy even if only very briefly something they are craving and the cook who made it gets to cherish appreciation of the likes that money cannot buy.

How has this cause affected your personal and professional life?

My personal life has seen losses that are way too many, and too many that need not have happened. It is that reality that brings rage and makes me wonder why more people with power and voice that is heard universally are not demanding a vaccine and better cure.

Even one life lost to HIV/AIDS in anyone's world is one life too many. Anyone who has lived with an active memory since the 1980's knows countless young vital people who lost their lives to this disease and the lethargic pace with which it was tackled and fought.

Rohit Khosla, a famous Indian fashion designer was suffering from this disease. The family spread the word that he died of cancer. I was barely coming out of my teens when I found out about this.

Rohit was someone I looked up to as an idol. I had no people to look up to in the world who seemed like me. He did. His sense of style, his artistic genius, his impeccable taste, his handsome face, his vocabulary of the spoken language and that of general personal fashion would have effected anyone that saw him.

It made a lasting impact on me. He died soon after I had met him, before I could have befriended him to study under him. This to me was a loss I never forgot and never could forgive.

What is the "Deciding Moment" that caused you to become an HIV/AIDS activist?

Hardly an activist, but rather, someone incensed by the dismal pace with which the political, medical and scientific communities are making efforts towards this disease. It seems as if social and sexual politics (with a large dose of religious dogma thrown in) are keeping those who can from making true efforts to fight the disease and find us a cure.

I find no place in my life and in this world for lethargy when dealing with any disease that can kill and affect millions. HIV/AIDS has changed the face of our world. It has taken away from us lives that were full of spirit, hope, future and promise without much done to prevent that loss.

To not feel rage against such tragedy is to me a sure sign of ignorance, apathy or imperiousness, none of which find a seat the table of my mind and my spirit. I look at life honestly – always aware of what truly is happening around me. Skimming over the fluff and the pageantry and only believing that which is found after deeply scratching the surface, and after tough conversations.

Of course losing colleagues, friends, and acquaintances to the disease month after month, year after year, has only added to my desire to ensure no one waxes poetic about the efforts being made to prevent and cure.

Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America – is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting:

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    September 7, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  2. Suvir Saran

    Megan – Thanks for your generous and kind words.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  3. Suvir Saran

    Thanks Saira for stopping by here. Please do use your words to make change happen. I truly believe that each of us is here in this world to make a greater impact than most of us think we can make. Legacies are left by each of us, and like anything else in life, not all are equal. Those that care, and those that invest of their time and brilliance, will leave legacies that last longer than the physical presence they can bless this world with.

    And yes, we all have a responsibility, around almost everything that makes this world tick. It is often easier to sit and preach, or complain or push blame or action on another, but it all begins and ends with us in the end.

    Yes, not all of us can impact change first-hand, but even talking about issues, bringing them up within our sphere of life and community is something that is better than nothing. Each drop of water adds to the ultimate depth and viability of the ocean. Kabir Das, an Indian poet/Sufi master wrote doha (couplets) after doha extolling the virtue of the virtuous that believe in action by oneself rather than always waiting for another to make action happen for us.

    Thank you for commenting and adding to the dialog. Wish you and yours great joy and happiness always and I hope you can always remember your own words written here and make sure your thoughts, your worries, and your victories are always shared with those you love – in hopes that they understand you, know where you stand and how you think, and also can enrich their own lives as they understand you and your thought process. Sometimes our friends and relatives are at a loss for direction and the words shared by us can impact their lives in ways we can never fathom. The spoken and written word have much greater value and power than the thoughts we keep to ourselves in our heads.


    January 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  4. Saira Malhotra

    Wow, this was really moving Suvir. It made me feel really unsettled that there are people who are suffering so much and either we just got used to it or we chose to ignore it. Thank you for bringing this back to us and making us recognize that we all have a responsibility here. Your words are powerful and inspiring for the rest of us to find our voice and not under estimate the power of our words and how each one of us can make a difference.

    Thank you

    January 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  5. Susan

    What a story. I read every word. Thank you for sharing. It made me reflect
    on friends I've lost who were much to young to have died.

    And the photo from your kitchen makes me wish I lived closer so I could pop in for lunch, with a phone call or text warning, of course! I can't help but notice the Emile Henry Pink and Citron cruets. Warm and welcoming colors and close at hand by the stove. The Mauviel copper pots are sensational too. A serious topic presented with grace.

    January 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Suvir Saran

      Hi Susan!
      I think I can guess which Susan this is.
      Come stop by anytime. It would be an honor to host you at the farm and cook for you.

      It angers me to think that we have each lost so many dear ones, much to young to have been taken away from this world – only because those that could, decided not to invest time, effort or research into this disease with all resolve. Hopefully that has changed. Can we believe it? One would want to, but questions linger, and for good reason.

      Whilst in India, I was hearing about how still, in so many parts of the world, HIV/AIDS is still an issue that is being denied, hidden or ignored. As Russia rises into its next appearance as a power to reckon in the world, the incidence of HIV/AIDS within its borders is rising at a pace that is quite scary. Sadly, very little is being done to change that and little if any educated responses to battle the issue are being employed. Hopefully this 30th anniversary of the disease and the back and forth we are having here and on other threads can share the reality of the disease and the universal face of it.

      Charlie and I try to surround ourselves with art, kitchen appliances and tools as well as friends that we can have around us for as long as we can live and breathe. Hence you see what you see in the kitchen photos. Brands that deliver quality with good taste and stylishly, but more importantly with durability.

      The friends I have lost to HIV/AIDS were men and women, even youngsters barely out of the teens who had the same promise, same magic and similar presence. Shame that we lost them to the disease and now I hope we can reflect on those lost and for their sake as well as that of the future ensure all in our abilities is done to ensure no one ever has to pass on because of the inaction, disinterest and ignorance of another.

      Thanks for commenting here and sharing your words. Lets all ensure we continue the dialog in our lives outside of the web and in our lives, around our tables and wherever we chat and share with loved ones.

      January 19, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  6. Mary Ann Joulwan

    Dear Suvir,

    I had planned to write something deeply profound and wonderful but in reading the many responses – I feel that
    it's all been said! And beautifully! And I agree! So let me say very simply and succinctly: thanks for being your honest and humane self (without equal) and for your friendship. Why does the song You Light Up My Life" keep coming to mind?

    With affection, Mary Ann


    January 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  7. Elizabeth Gambee Osborne

    You wax more and more eloquently as you age! Just think what wisdom you will be dispensing when you reach my age.
    I love that you make references to illness and food and care. It is nourishing and nurturing each other that we give back in this world.
    I think of the end of life experiences with my parents and my dear friend Helene, when the best I could do was make food for them with love. And now, while I am recovering from surgery I think of what food I can make to feed my friends and loved ones who have come to care for me,
    Safe travels back to Hebron. I am anxious to see you and Charlie and share a cup of cocoa and Grandma Hayes' cornbread.
    Thanks for speaking out of AIDS. We have all lost too many dear ones.

    January 15, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Suvir Saran

      Betty – I hope to reach your age if I can be guaranteed the charisma, the magnanimity and the generosity of self and spirit you are able to maintain at all moments. Else, I would rather not wish longevity for myself. You have set the bar very high for those that know you around living and sharing.

      Thanks for bringing the connection of food with disease full circle through your own very recent experiences around surgery. How fascinating to hear from one who has lost several people, and cared for each of them with the gift of food in addition to presence and conversations. And now hearing that you spend time wondering what you can cook for those that were at your side in the last bit of 2010 and the early part of this year giving you care. Bless you!

      We shall see you by months end and will celebrate Grandma Hayes with her cornbread and those that have sadly passed onto their next journeys due to AIDS with a bowl of rice pudding.

      You are so right in noting that we have all lost too many dear ones already to this disease. I hope the stigma attached to the disease (rather foolishly I must add) ceases to exist and people become human beings first and then whatever else they want to be. There is no room in our world today for bigotry in any form. I hope the hate-mongers in the public eye that have held offices, hold them now, and want to hold higher office still – can resist from dividing the rest of us through careless and very carefully planned divisions that they know are of their creation alone, and sadly attributed to higher powers of the most sacred kind. Those that believe, have my respect and I believe that they would never believe their belief could hope for death and sadness on another human. That garbage is the verbal weaponry of the elected officials with no intelligence to reflect upon and cull from.


      January 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  8. Pamela Silliman

    Wow. Suvir, it has just struck me, once again, but in such a deeper way, how FORTUNATE I am to have somehow crossed paths with you. If I haven't said it before, it certainly needs to be said right now: It is an absolute honor to have my life blessed with meeting you, working with you, being taught by you (you have NO IDEA how much you have taught me-not just Indian Cuisine....), and to serve our wonderful and cherished guests at Cornell your wonderful creations. I whole heartedly agree: food CAN heal and change lives, as well as affect the way we think......our relationship is solid proof. Remember way back when, when I told you I knew absolutely nothing about Indian food? There was so much more, that I was too embarassed to even mention....I knew nothing about the culture, relationships, people, even some techniques. My heart wore "blinders" to many things, too many to mention, and you have helped me toss those blinders aside in more ways that I even CARE to mention. All connected to food. Food brought you to me. And you have changed my life in so many ways. Even some of our guests at American Masala have unkowingly changed my life, or helped heal, in ways they don't even know about, but it would never have happened, had it not been for our connection with food.

    Thank you, Suvir, for changing my life, my family's life, forever.

    Always, Pamela

    January 15, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Suvir Saran

      Pamela – You have embarrassed me with rich praise. I am beholden to you. Will cease to give you further compliments for fear you will continue this mutual admiration going on here. Thanks!

      January 15, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  9. Suvir Saran

    Hi Pam! What an honor it is to hear your voice on this thread. Thanks for making time to write. You work so hard and such odd hours, that your commenting here is a luxurious treat you have shared with me.

    Pam – you inspire every day with the quality of food you prepare for student, staff and faculty at Cornell University. They are indeed blessed to have you and have you cooking the dishes you gift them so kindly. It is such food that truly has the power to heal, nourish and inspire. You have done it. Congrats!

    The next book does not have Karahi Paneer, but the one after will. A few versions of it. Surely there will be many more recipes with paneer in that book. After all it has almost 300 recipes. Are you happier knowing this?

    The recipe for the famous biscuits (scone-like) is with the team that makes the desserts. Ask Chef Miller and he will bring them to you. They flipped after tasting them. All that tried them were in awe and shocked by how tender and flaky and sensual the mouth feel of these biscuits were. Biscuits have such a great following in the US, and yet I had never enjoyed one till a friend made me his grandmothers very simple version of those. Those changed my life. As I said in this interview somewhere that I am really not much of a follower (think sheep), I am one that wants to make my own opinions after some research and much struggle, since there are always challenges on the way... and once I find what I can truly appreciate and celebrate, I am then the biggest champion for that dish, cause or person. These biscuits made me go from not being a biscuit person to now craving company at the farm so I can make them for our guests in the morning. It was my good fortune to have had Rose Levy Beranbaum, the high-priestess of desserts and baking staying at the farm. Without fear (shocking!) I set out to make these for her even before she was up. I knew she was enjoy coffee and so I knew it was time to get the biscuits going. Rose's experience with them was almost as interesting as mine. She offered immediately that these may have been the most tender and flaky biscuits she had eaten. That in itself was the best compliment she could give me. But I could tell she was still not finished figuring out the chemistry of the composition of the ingredients that led to this amazing result. Months later, as she presents me with the foreword written by her for Masala Farm, my book that comes out in October, I understood what made them different. Rose had figured it out. The recipe and result of her investigation will be in the book. Of course you will get a signed copy. I owe you much more than that.

    Curiosity like Rose's is what we need more of. Not the didactic ideology championed by most. The latter is comforting for it poses no challenge and we can sit in a couch and continue watching TV and eating junk food without putting ourselves into any kind of labor, not even that of thought.

    Pam – again, thanks for feeding those that stop by your station at Cornell some amazing food. I know they are blessed and those that know food and appreciate great food, certainly know the love, labor and thought you have put into the tasty bites they enjoy. Some will continue to bless you long years after they have left the university. Some may even come back looking for you to thank you with their families at their side. Such is the power of good food, made with care, presented with thought and shared with love.

    January 15, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  10. Anu Mahay Bambra

    very well said...Suvir.....Aids is a reality of life & you make it sound so humane & touching....i think food is a great way to connect people....

    January 14, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Suvir Saran

      Is this my sweet cousin Anu? How the h@*% did you find this link? Miracles never cease to happen. How amazing to find you here and now be in touch. Anu email me and lets meet sometime in the near future. I know you had moved to the US, but have no more details. I am sure mom will fill me in on the rest, but I would love to see you on your turf and with you in charge of the story telling.

      Glad you stopped by and glad you agree that food is a great connector of people. I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment and find it a weapon of mass healing rather than destruction.

      my website is you can find my email etc there.



      January 15, 2011 at 12:18 am |
      • Anu mahay

        Its great to be in touch with you again....had never moved to the US.....was just there for a holiday last summer....saw this post on facebook(by Samir) so thought that i should definitely write to you....we must meet next time whenever you are in delhi...have some very fond memories of the time we spent together as can email me care

        January 15, 2011 at 3:57 am |
    • Suvir Saran

      Anu – you have mail!

      January 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  11. Pamela Silliman

    Suvir & Charlie,

    OOHH! I am so very sorry to hear about Grandma Hayes...her cornbread was (and still is!) very well loved here at Cornell, when I make it on special occasions. Charlie, my heart goes out to you and all your loved ones, bless Grandma Hayes' soul.

    Suvir, I was very touched by your interview. Not for one moment did I think you ever said too much. I don't think any of us can ever talk too much about HIV or AIDS, after all, you have to talk about it to be aware of it. I have always found that every time you speak, it is somehow ALWAYS inspiring and very enlightening, no matter what the subject.

    I hope that your Karahi Paneer is in your next book, because it is SOOO wonderful, it is a shame to keep it a secret.. I also hope that you have more Paneer recipes in there, I need more. Charlie, don't forget to remind Suvir to put the tip in the book on the way I showed you that I remove corn from the cob a couple years back. Suvir, I would like to know if you can figure out a way to make a "Chai Cheesecake", also, where is my scone recipe you promised?

    I will have to send some ooey, gooey brownies soon.

    Much love, Pamela (NOT Pampa!)

    January 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Suvir Saran

      Pam – by error I did not post my reply to here on this reply section just for you. Scroll down, if you do come back and you can see it. Thanks for everything you do at Cornell. Hope your husband, daughter and you enjoy 2011 in great health and sharing wonderful memories and meals together and with loved ones.


      January 15, 2011 at 12:15 am |
  12. Eric Mayo


    lovely to read your initial comments, and your kind and thoughtful responses to others. Ron and I know Samir from our time in London, and we so appreciated and enjoyed our time in Delhi and India, topped off with a visit and meal with your wonderful family. It was a pleasure to meet all of them, hear of their time in the US, talk and break bread together- some great food!! I think we were in touch at some point after we got back to Oakland in 2009. We hope to meet you here or there at some point. Thanks for being visible and "out there". You and Samir are both charging ahead!!

    January 14, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Suvir Saran

      Thanks Eric!

      Ron and you should come visit Charlie and I at the farm. Would love to host you. Just read your comment to Samir, at our dining table, and he says hello.

      How could one not be "out there" and visible when blessed with so much. Too many of us are simply out there in a rat race for amassing wealth, often without even an understanding of what it brings with it. Wealth creates opportunities, and wealth also gives freedom. It is nothing to fight and nothing to question. Questionable are those that are lost in the green of wealth and nothing more. I have come to know people of wealth who had dedicated a great chunk of their life to service, charity and introspection. A few even to HIV/AIDS related issues.

      Visibility also comes with the burden of speaking the truth and speaking it even if it makes you indulge in something difficult for oneself to take on. It is this that separates us from another peer of equal visibility in end. Visibility and power give a great high in our lifetime. They never leave a legacy, if the visibility is not turned into action that can last the tests of time and make changes in society that can affect generations to come.

      I hope my life affords me visibility and power, that I harness and use for the right purposes. To amass wealth, to use the wealth for responsible personal use and also responsible sharing with the society and the causes I champion.

      The night of my journey in this life is still very young and I have years to go before I can rest. At least in theory, lest I leave this world under tragic conditions unimaginable today (like the millions of lives lost to HIV/AIDS and other such difficult diseases). My hope is to enjoy the journey mindfully and break bread with wonderful others such as Ron and you and see how we can all work towards supporting the others' goals and sometimes invest together in our common goals and ensure change happens and maybe in our lifetime.

      Thanks for stopping by this thread. How wonderful of you to even write something. I am honored. Email me please. Lets meet for sure. Samir speaks highly of you all.

      January 14, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  13. Marty Gatti

    Suvir, your narrative, eloquent as always, is truthful and compassionate as well. Your belief in the link of food, health, family, friendship and community is shared with many of my dearest friends. The comments on the tragedy of HIV/AIDS and your continued concern are particularly important to me, for not only did I lose countless friends in the 80’s and 90’s, I also lost my partner of over 11 years. I am blessed to have met you and look forward to our future conversations.

    January 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Suvir Saran

      Marty – Thanks for your blessings to this thread and for sharing your personal connection to this cause. It is voices such as yours that need to be heard and stories like yours that also need to shared. How I wish the world would wake up and realize that is not a disease that cherry picks its victims. It is as secular as the best of us may strive to be. All are prey to its hell. Yet, too many politicos and people of cloth and thereby everyday people have allowed this to be compartmentalized and ghettoized into something that only inflight "the other".

      I remember being in the company of a very educated society woman in New Delhi who when asked if we could do some work for HIV/AIDS in India said in all innocence (read ignorance if that) said that it was nothing to waste time on. It was a disease of those "other types" of people and nothing we need worry about. My face let her know that she may have uttered something quite horrific and offensive and so a dialog began. Hours later after much back and forth and crying and exposing of tales and even a friend coming out to a parent who was also present during this exchange.

      We have a long journey ahead of us to make people realize how deeply involved each segment of society has been with this disease. Its victims are never predictable or stereotypical as we study the incidence of the disease globally. Nothing that should be dismissed as the creation or challenge of any one grouping of people or even a culture, society or nation. It has itself enmeshed in all our lives, even sometimes without our knowledge. Darkness that we have created around this is nothing anyone ought to be proud of. Instead, we ought to fight for a more open dialog and a very deliberate fight to find a cure and vaccine.

      January 14, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Suvir Saran

      Hi Marty!
      Just figured out who this is.
      Betty told me it was you.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      How wonderful to find you online.
      Keep well and in touch.
      Come join us at the farm for a meal.
      Charlie and I look forward to seeing you.


      January 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  14. Rose Levy Beranbaum

    suvir, dianne is beyond imaginable amazing. you must visit her next time you are in SF. trust me!
    i miss you and charlie and love picturing you in india with your dear family.
    just found out a few weeks ago that my wonderful friend ariane daquin's mother is just never came up during my visit to their home some years ago. and another dear friend gay. not that either one was hiding it. just that not everyone is as talkative and/or open as we are. and there is so much else to talk about such as food food food! xoxox

    January 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Suvir Saran

      So you my dear Rose, sent Dianne to this link! Now I get it. Thanks again Rose.
      Charlie had to rush back to the US, as Grandma Hayes, whose Cornbread made American Masala quite the hit with anyone into comforting foods from US and other countries, passed away. She lived with his mother in Huntington, WV. What a tragic loss for our family.
      Grandma Hayes will forever be loved by many. I know Gael Greene was a big fan of her cornbread and also many others across the country. Even those that have never met Charlie or I, have heard of her if they have the book and have cooked that most-amazing of all cornbreads.

      The new book has her recipe for roasted potatoes. When you try them Rose, you will bring Grandma Hayes into your world at fete her at your table. She was quite formidable.

      At least Grandma Hayes lived a full life, passing away at the age of 89, after having lived fully and shared a lot with loved ones. I mourn her loss, and shall always be sad for it, but her loss again brings to the forefront those sad losses we have all seen and many seen rather closely of lives that were vital, young, only beginning to make lasting impact in their fields and on this world – and then rudely taken away from us, because of this horrid disease and the even more horrid handling of the cure and prevention.

      Thanks Rose for being a champion of your friends and for always being a rose unlike any.

      January 14, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  15. Suvir Saran

    Dianne – you have me and my mother moved by your comment. Please note we are both applauding you for commenting here, but more importantly for recognizing the precious humanity your two sons had and others like them who sadly lost the battle against "the hell of AIDS".
    It seems you are a woman of brave and generous character and spirit – since so many others live in denial, even after loved ones pass away to this horrid disease. That is nothing short of amazing and I salute you for being that way.
    May all of us have the strength to be like you when faced with issues in life, even those not as challenging as what you have lived through.

    Dianne, please keep in touch with me via email, you can find it via my own site ( and if ever in NYC, allow me to break bread with you and toast to Tom and Ted and wish them great joy and happiness in heaven – where I am sure bigotry, misogyny, hatred and divisive conniving have no place.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  16. dianne boate

    Bravo. There is a new army in heaven who passed through the hell of AIDS who are looking on you with great favor and silent applause, and that includes my son, Tom, 1958-1986, and Ted, 1960 – 1992, Education and Love is what is needed in abundant and frequent helpings served with grace on large platters.

    January 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  17. Rose Levy Beranbaum

    suvir, you are one of the most honest people i've ever known. this shines through in everything you do. hiding a part of who you are is a tragedy that you are blessed not to experience. and you also give support and inspiration to so many on so many levels. prejudice is the worst. for a few short and stupid years when my name was gibbs i hoped no one would know i was jewish. i didn't like the idea of being disliked on first meeting before someone even knew who i was. i didn't want to be thought of as an american, as a woman, as a jew, only as a person. but by doing this i was also rejecting all those parts of me that define who but not all i am.

    January 14, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Suvir Saran

      Rose, and you are one of the most honest people I have known. Now we can start a mutual admiration academy. Would you be interested? LOL!
      Rose – I am so glad you are Levy Beranbaum now instead of Gibbs, as I could not imagine the Rose I respect, adore and LOVE being anything but Jewish, woman, American, talented, precise, perfectionist, loyal, generous and innocent. You are too sweet, too kind and too wonderful.
      Glad you found the real you – as the world of food and those that enjoy good food, would be poorer without a Rose that can be happy in her own skin, so as to create the magical sweet goodies that have inspired generations of home bakers and professionals too.
      How are you dear friend?
      Sending you warmth and new year wishes and more from New Delhi.
      Will be back soon and call you and make up for my absence and my connection via email with you.
      Thanks for coming to the posting and for sharing your story.
      You are an inspiration and a legend – but most of all, you are Rose Levy Beranbaum, a dear friend, a dynamic personality and a gifted-beyond-words culinarian with the heart of gold. Thanks for being you.

      January 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  18. Kevin Olomon

    Indeed inspiring! Thanks, Suvir. And if Benji doesn't get'cha... maybe I'm next in line? :-)

    January 14, 2011 at 4:08 am |
    • Suvir Saran

      Kevin – beauty is skin deep. And so, I take such compliments on face value. I am most honored that you took time to comment. That means a lot to me. How I wish more of us would make a statement to never allow HIV/AIDS and its incidence and impact to be sidelined by a misinformed and bigoted majority.

      Thanks for making me feel good about myself. I was nervous that I may have said too much on a very visible site. Yet to find any of peer other than the overly-generous and always-kind Rose Levy Beranbaum stopping by and lending their name or words to this thread.

      When Kat Kinsman and Devna Shukla reached out to me to do this, I was amidst many challenged facing me whilst visiting my parents in Delhi. The details of the interview made me give them a quick yes, and then I began tweaking around with the details of my day to push things around and plan so as to deliver answers promptly and honestly.

      Fear gripped me after I sent the email, as I wondered if I had given them what they wanted, or what the readers of blogs would find interesting. I am not one to waste time on that which is popular. I spend time sharing my life with those I love deeply and doing things I cherish. Nothing half-baked for me, unless we are talking brownies, and in that case I must admit I love them chewy and even gooey.

      It is nice to see people come and take time to post comments and it is my hope that even those that are only browsing are left with some impression about the reality of this disease and the very slow pace with which efforts have been made for its prevention and cure.

      January 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  19. Rajiv Murthy

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Suvir Saran when he came to our office premises in richardson, TX a few years back. I remember buying my first cookbook for my wife (She loves cooking) which he graciously signed. We have tried every single vegetarian recipes in that book, and every single one of them have turned out great.
    Reading that he is also involved in a greater cause makes me respect him all the more. Great job!

    January 14, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • Suvir Saran

      Rajiv – how very kind of you to stop by, read this blog post and comment. Even kinder of you to share the details of our meeting. What company do you work for? Which book did you get for your wife? Indian Home Cooking or American Masala? Do you have favorites? Please thank your wife for enjoying the book and putting it to use. That is the best gift she could give me. If you are in NYC, email me, my website is and it has details. Maybe I can invite you to Devi and we can meet again.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  20. AGould

    very inspiring and touching. thanks for sharing.

    January 14, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Suvir Saran

      Thanks for taking time to comment. You are very kind.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  21. Ida Shen

    Great article. Very inspiring indeed.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
    • Suvir Saran

      Ida – you have inspired me plenty my dear. And students at UC Berkeley eat well because of your hard work and detailed policing of the front and back of the cafes where they come to dine. Thanks for visiting this blog and the post. Hope you are well.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  22. TImothy Frank

    I have worked with Suvir when he taught a cooking class at a cooking school I managed. Next to the great Julie Sahni, he was most of the most inspiring and interesting Indian cuisine class instructors we had. His book is absolutely marvelous and while I haven't been to his his restaurant, I can't wait to go there my next time in New York. Thanks Suvir for being a great inspiration to our community.

    January 13, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Suvir Saran

      Thanks Timothy for your kind words. And thanks for making time to post a comment here. That is also a gift you have shared with our community.
      What school did we meet at? Forgive me for my bad memory. I am terrible with names, but not with faces and gestures.
      Feel like a fool for not knowing the school or class where I met you.
      Thanks for having me there.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
      • Megan

        You seem like a very wonderful and lovely individual. I wish you the best luck in all that you do in the future.

        January 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  23. martin2176

    i dont know about healing effect of food, but I am sure there is nothing more enjoyable than good food.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Joe Mahma

      Food is far more than just something you chew on that tastes and smells good. You'd be surprised how much of a long term effect food has on a person's health not to mention short term. The right foods can achieve the same effects as drugs in alleviating illness without unbalancing a person's system.

      January 14, 2011 at 12:40 am |
      • Suvir Saran

        so well stated Joe.
        I wish more of us would embrace the age old dictat – you are what you eat, and in doing so, we would live much richer lives and also eat delicious food that would not only sate our hunger and cravings but also ensure we live better lives.
        Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts.

        January 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  24. steve

    That is really inspiring. Good work Suvir.

    January 13, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • suvir saran

      Thanks Steve and Timothy.
      Martin – Glad you are sure about nothing being more enjoyable than good food. That in itself shares the effect good food can have on one.

      January 13, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Benji

      I'd really like to meet Suvir. He seems like a good guy. And cute. ^_^

      January 14, 2011 at 1:59 am |
      • Suvir Saran

        You are making me blush with your generous kindness.
        Wish I were all that.
        But thanks anyways.
        Even before you meet me, make sure you are present and mindfully enjoy moments with those you are already around.
        That would show you beauty at levels and in layers you never thought possible before.
        Thanks again!

        January 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
      • Charlie

        He is pretty great Benji, and cute for sure... but hands off, he's still mine! LOL :-)

        Seriously though, it is his passion for life and direct, no filter way of communicating that still makes me smile every time he walks into a room! And like you, I cannot imagine anyone who would not want to meet him – barring Sara Palin, poor thing could never keep up with him!



        January 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
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