Fame Bites - Parvesh Cheena
February 10th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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Fame Bites goes inside the belly of the entertainment beast. We're dishing out where the celebrities are eating, what they're eating and who they're eating with.

With episode names like “Jolly Vindaloo Day” and “A Sitar is Born,” the workplace comedy "Outsourced" is spicing up NBC's Thursday night line-up with a little Indian food and culture at 10:30 p.m. ET.

"Outsourced" is based around an Indian call center in Mumbai for Mid American Novelties, a catalog-based company that sells really practical items like wallets made of bacon and "Ring for Beer" bells.

Parvesh Cheena plays Gupta, the call center’s good-natured yet socially irksome employee - it's safe to say he's the guy you scurry away from when you see him approaching the water cooler.

We recently had the chance to chat with Cheena about his native Chicago's deep-dish pizza (Fact: He checks frozen ones in his luggage), Indian food, and why we agree that Paula Deen might need a seven-step program for butter.

I have to tell you I am absolutely obsessed and in love with Gupta.

"Thank you, I like that people can see themselves in him. That inner kid that we all have. He doesn’t censor anything and says what is on his mind."

This past week, Gupta received a plate of laddoos (an Indian sweet made out of gram flour and formed into balls) - so we wanted to see what your favorite type of mithai (Indian sweet) is?

"As a kid, I loved jalebis (deep-fried batter soaked in syrup) because they were totally the Indian sticky pretzel. That was the best treat that I liked. Now, being older, I realize it is a lot of sugar to have! I guess my taste has become much more savory - I’ll definitely eat cake and sweets but I don’t seek it out. I’m more of a chips and salsa and papad (dried lentil chip) type of guy.

I always loved laddoos because they were dry, it wasn’t wet like rasmalai (balls of cheese soaked in clotted cream and flavored with cardamom) or gulab jamun (deep-fried dough with flavored syrup]. You always have to equate it to your American sweets, so laddoos are kind of like donut holes or Dunkin Donuts' munchkins.

I also have a special place for laddoos because when I was little my mom would explain 'April Fool's Day' to us by telling us this story of how when she was in a convent school in Delhi, her and her friends made balls of mud and covered it with laddoos covering and served it to their professor. I love that story - always tickles me that my mom was naughty. You never think your parents are ever naughty! Now - you can’t go there, especially with food allergies.

You know, I remember playing 'taste test' when we were in second grade. Did you ever play that?"

I don’t think so…

"You’d have to close your eyes and your friends would pick the food from the fridge or cabinet. I remember one time I ate a saltine with spoonfuls of salt on it. One time, my friend Amy even ate cat food."

Dangerous! So what would you say is the best way to win Gupta’s heart or stomach?

"My boyfriend Gregory and I have found Clay Oven on Ventura Blvd. It’s in Sherman Oaks and they’ve got delicious food. I’m pescatarian, so I don’t eat chicken, beef, pork, all that stuff. They make this great vegetable tikka masala - so it’s like the fajita of Indian food with sizzling onions. After the 'Jolly Vindaloo' episode, they made us vegetarian vindaloo (a curry cooked with potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, vinegar and red Kashmiri chilies).

Gupta is definitely a sweet eater and can eat sweets all day. Without giving away too much, we have an episode this season where Gupta lets himself go. And Anisha Nagarajan's - who plays Madhuri - joke is: 'So, you were trying before?'"

Do you cook often? When you do, what is your signature dish?

"I’m actually a really bad cook, to be honest - but my signature dish is spicy mac n' cheese.

What is in your spicy mac n' cheese?

"Any good quality mac n' cheese. I go a little light on the butter and cream and add a little more cheese. I’ll even shred my own. And then loads of whatever the spicy sauce of the day is whether it is Tabasco, Cholula, or my favorite, sriracha. That is my comfort food. And then when I’m trying to be healthy after traveling, I make almond milk, brown rice, and stir-fry with a little white wine.

That sounds pretty fancy.

"I do okay –- everyone has their dishes that are their go-tos. When my family did shy away from Indian food, we’d eat a lot of Chinese. We’d use the wok a lot. I never had a problem with Brussels sprouts or broccoli growing up. I always grew up with the mentality of finishing your plate. Cauliflower is my weakness even today: I love eating cauliflower even with a little bit of dressing. My big downfall is deep-dish pizza from Chicago. That is why I can’t go vegan - I can’t give up cheese. I can’t give up dairy."

What is your advice to those who haven’t tried Indian food - whether they are nervous or scared? On the show you make a lot of jokes about how Indian food will make your stomach hurt.

"My advice is that there are always easy jokes - and we did that at the beginning because there are a lot of people who haven’t experienced Indian food. The best way is that after the joke, let’s break down the ingredients. Do you like spinach? No? Well do you like potatoes? OK - add some cauliflower and add some aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower). Do you like chicken? OK cool, we’ll show you how to make boneless chicken - your chicken tikka. The level of spice can always depend on the dish.

The best way is to not say, 'Here is aloo gobi subzi,' but say, 'here is a potato-cauliflower dish.' Do you want chicken on the bone? Or the soft chicken in the orange? To differentiate between tandoori chicken and chicken tikka."

So, just really demystify the dishes?

"Yeah, really make it accessible. I really like south Indian food. Being Punjabi myself, we would go to a south Indian restaurant once or twice a year. The good thing I realized about Southern food is that everything is separate - it’s dry, and then you dip it into the sambar (vegetable stew made from Pigeon peas, so that was really easy to explain to people too. I was afraid of Korean food when I moved to L.A., let alone sushi. I remember thinking either sink or swim. Living here in Studio City, Ventura Blvd. is the Mecca of sushi restaurants. What you thought was so exotic is just run of the mill."

I also think the issue is that people assume you order an Indian dish and just eat it in its entirety, even though much of the Indian experience is eating family-style where you take a little of everything and share.

"I did tell some friends that when we are at home at my Mom’s, we’ll have the three or four subzis (vegetables). The bindi (okra), the bhartha (eggplant), the rice, the naan. But if it is a regular casual night, we’ll just have a roti (Indian flatbread) and one subzi. If I ate the way we do when it’s a weekend or special holiday, it’s way too much. You can totally overdo it. It’s easier to eat a little daal (lentils), saag paneer (spinach and cheese), and one or two rotis.

So - who is your dream dinner date?

"I’m kind of fascinated by Paula Deen. I’ve been to her restaurant, The Lady and Sons, in Savannah. My friend was studying in the area and we ate at her restaurant and it was right at the cusp where Paula Deen became Paula Deen. I’d be curious because her spinach artichoke dip is fantastic, [as is] her eggplant Parmesan and shrimp scampi. I’d sit with her and say: 'Paula, we can’t eat this everyday.'"

An intervention with Paula Deen! I love her, but she needs a butter intervention.

"But it just tastes so good. She’d be a fun dinner date because she is not lacking with conversation.

Anisha and I are the only two on the cast who brought our old T.V.'s to our rooms on set. I’ve got the 20-inch TV that is like two feet deep. The only thing Anisha has on her TV is Food Network - we’ve been watching a lot of 'Barefoot Contessa.'"

I’m a big Giada fan, and Ina has won me over as well.

"She is so sweet! She is so happy. My dream date has to be a chef because I’d want them to cook for me and talk to me about it afterward.

It's so great - our whole cast, we are total foodies. We all go with each others' spouses and boyfriends and girlfriends. Tonight, we are going to Jitlada which is on Sunset, and Rebecca [Hazlewood] is hosting it. She is the one who sent the e-mail last night. Anisha had a big Indian dinner - she cooked everything. And, we all go out afterward. There is no BS about it at all.

You know talking to you, I guess I am a foodie.

This past week with friends in town we went to FireFly, Lotería, Pizzeria Mozza, Kiwami Sushi, Hugo’s. Earlier in the week, we went to Clay Oven; last night we went to Dominick’s. I realized that I’ve gone to all my favorite restaurants around town so I definitely need to bring it back to reality and eat at home!"

Devna Shukla is an Associate Producer for CNN's AC360°.

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Filed under: Bite • Columns • Fame Bites


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soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. clarifier

    @Aditya, the follow-up sentence says that Outsourced is "spicing up NBC's Thursday night line-up with a little Indian food and culture." The key part of that, which explains the mention of "A Sitar is Born," is the "and culture."

    February 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  2. idiocracy82

    @Jason, I thought the same thing before I watched the show. Don't blame India for making it so cheap and easy to do business there- blame the US for making it so much cheaper to take the money overseas.
    9 Americans out of 10 wouldn't take a job in a call center- The pay is shite, a lot of it is commission based., and because of the time difference, these people work atrocious hours and don't see their families so that people they call in America can yell at them. Instead of being mad about a fake show being on the air, be mad that your government has made real live outsourcing a real thing.

    February 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Reply
  3. Aditya

    "A Sitar is Born" has no Indian food name in it!

    February 13, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  4. AstraNavigo

    Anyone who's 'fascinated' by Paula Deen and Ina Garten needs their head examined. Deen doesn't cook; she melts grease. One look at Garten will tell you how she's lived her entire life – cheese; cheese; and more cheese.

    Both of those women are corn-fed heifers; heart-attacks-on-the-hoof who've spread their culinary poison to the rest of the world via broadband.

    This guy has zero credibility for that reason alone.

    (I like Indian food. It can be made healthily and with real taste, unlike the gunk he's discussing here. How 'bout an article like that?)

    February 13, 2011 at 9:41 am | Reply
  5. muffdiver

    No indian can compare with the loves, hates and comedy of Apu!!! That's because he's PU A, you dig!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 13, 2011 at 4:28 am | Reply
  6. Jason Glugla

    Hee hee, having all of the jobs in your country shipped to India and China is funny. I forgot, we still make Subway sandwiches here.

    February 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Reply
  7. NM

    Bill......India has always been a libral country when it comes to sexuality. The only difference was that it was strictly private...in your bedroom. Pre marital sex in not 'liberation' ...understanding the impact of your action, ability to make informed decision , education and career ...that is liberation.
    India is a land of Kamasutra where fertility is a divine virtue ...that all changed with the western influence when islam from west invaded India ( Islam is one of the three western religion sharing a common root i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam-all western religions share same root and thoughts). Islam and its ways forced majority of Hindus in India to amend their ways of life hence you see lots of conservatism. Pre Islam India was more open society, Hindus did not have veils in their culture but with islam invasion hindus had to resort to veil to prevent the absue/harassement of women folks by the ruling /invading armies. Mughals had long brutal history in India.

    February 12, 2011 at 10:33 am | Reply
  8. Tom

    I suspect the show will soon be history. The ratings are not very good.

    February 12, 2011 at 9:48 am | Reply
  9. Non-confused Desi

    Dear Bill
    Thanks for the effort you took in typing your banter – although partly true, you can hardly claim to know the social norms of this country from what you hear from your grad student firends. Young kids in Indian villages get so much action, it would make the 90210 generation blush.
    Check your facts – although you are right about acceptance of homosexuality being in the incipient stages.

    February 12, 2011 at 8:49 am | Reply
  10. Bill

    The Gay thing is just spouting now in India but is otherwise really insignificant, even that is so because of a few gay activists hog limelight promoting it. LOL, Indian men are too enamored by females to consider alternative lifestyles... the guys get sooo little action in Kamasutra land... the ratio of talking about it actually doing it is a million to one(just in case you are wondering how then India has a billion+ people, !it is the enhanced fertility and moist climates, but that is a story for another day) but then again I could be talking of any of the other Indian sub-continent countries and oh yes Middle East! Indians owe a lot to good old America and the West for the new sexual liberalism and improved dating scene and yes action in India now... the outsourced BPO and Call Centers needed guys and girls to work at unearthly hours and that has given ample avenues for unsupervised sex(yes, unsupervised sex – as opposed to arranged marriages) and AT LAST premarital sex! So young Indian men/women don't just owe their jobs to Americans, their enhanced sex lives too..

    What makes ABCDs(American Born Confused Desis, an acronym for Indians in US that are caught in the Indian-American value systems mess), and typical Indian immigrants squirm every time they see Indian guys holding hands or even hands over shoulders with other guys in India.. this is typical Indian guys with pals for you... don't assume he is gay – he would make out with your wife if he could! even your daughter LOL,

    February 12, 2011 at 7:53 am | Reply
  11. Ragu Tadikamala

    What caste is his family?

    February 12, 2011 at 5:44 am | Reply
  12. Johnalso

    watched Sari Charlie, pretty lame writing. i'll give one season and it's toast. too bad, clever idea and i'd love to see more indian culture on tv, but these lame stereotypes are really annoying

    February 12, 2011 at 3:44 am | Reply
  13. ThisPersonIsMakingAComment

    I LOVE GUPTA! And for anyone who doesn't love gupta, I don't love you anymore. Happy V-day everyone! Gupta, even though you like dudes and have a boyfriend, will you be my valentine?

    February 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  14. ProudIndian

    @ObamaAlabamaSlamma...men should not have boyfriends and Indian culture is not confusing.
    Indian culture = loving God, loving your parents, loving your husband/wife, children, working hard and eating great food. (in that order)

    February 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Reply
    • straightbrownman

      There are gay indians. They deserve the same right to happiness as you. Get over it.

      February 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm | Reply
  15. ObamaAlabamaSlamma

    How can a man have a boyfriend? Is he really a woman? Indian culture is so confusing.

    February 11, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Reply
    • Gern Blanston

      Golly, you sure are funny.

      February 13, 2011 at 9:42 am | Reply
  16. lori-ann

    Curious to know what you like Fiona since you are so quick to judge and put down others. Do you have a successful career as an author or a cooking show host? Probably not. Get a life!

    February 11, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Reply
  17. Chuck

    Gupta is the best!

    February 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  18. DB

    while I love this sitcom, I have to say that the motion picture, Outsourced, is better. not nearly as funny, mind you. but still one of my top 10 favs.
    Gupta is the character you can't help but love.

    February 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Reply
    • John D

      I agree completely. Loved the movie, especially the scene in which the elder lady cooks the meal for him and buys him an egg (which she would never eat). So very Indian–hospitable, kind, and very generous. The movie is much more like India than the TV show, which is more like a hollywood set. But both are fun.

      February 11, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  19. Fiona

    Cannot stand Barefoot Contessa! Ina Garten looks like an obese cat - way too pleased with herself and at any moment prone to start licking herself. She does these little grunts that irk me. And the food she makes is as heavy and unctuous as she is.

    February 11, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Reply
    • D

      Completely disagree Fiona. I've made recipes from most of those chefs and hers are the best. And, they also tend to be on the HEALTHIER side. Occasionally she'll make a really unhealthy dish, but her recipes are my go-to recipes for healthy but great meals.

      February 11, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Reply
  20. Natalie

    True dat CBS. I would like to see him in other things like movies, he would be good in the Hangover 2

    February 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  21. CBS

    LOVE LOVE LOVE Gupta! IMO, the show wouldn't be good w/out him!!!!!

    February 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  22. Natalie

    Love the show, Love Gupta, he is my favorite.

    February 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  23. rstar

    this show is hilarious!!!

    February 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      Yes, this show probably is hilarious. So is the premise of taking American jobs to India and then laughing about fact. I see another comment about blaming the government for making it so easy to move jobs overseas. BS! blame the stupid Americans who continue to vote for the "touchy feely" liberal morons who want diversity and government dependence. My wife works in a call center (reservations) for an airline. She makes good money and has fairly decent working conditions, and, oh, BTW, she speaks and understands english.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Reply
      • Steven Ziebell

        Oursourcing is favored by business because they make more money. "Touchy-feely libs" have nothing to do with it. Why do you spread misinformation. Does the truth make you uncomfortable?

        February 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Reply
      • Aaron

        Yeah, because it's the "touchy feely liberals" that are shipping our jobs overseas. Right...must be these same liberals that are in charge of the corporations in this country. Oh wait, what's that? CEOs, CFOs, and all the other corporate bigwigs are conservatives who don't live up to the principles this nation was founded on and don't believe in helping their own people? Big surprise.

        February 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  24. John

    Huh, according to his bio at NBC he grew up in Naperville, same place I did.

    And yes Curious, Parvesh Cheena is gay.

    February 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Reply
    • Taylor

      To be fair I think alot of people saw boyfriend and were like "hmmm." You don't see him and think gay (and don't jump on me, everyone makes initial judgements you can't help it), but alas he's gay – who cares? Love the show – hope it sticks around

      February 14, 2011 at 9:46 am | Reply
  25. Curious...

    Boyfriend? Umm...?

    February 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Reply
    • pedro

      ...that would probably mean he's gay, yes. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

      February 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Reply
    • keef

      people are allowed to be gay.

      February 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • johnny america

      Sculpting a boat out of feces is also allowed, but its gross and does nothing for humanity...whats your point?

      February 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Reply
      • Kev

        Letting jerks post to message boards is allowed but it's allowed and does nothing for humanity.

        February 13, 2011 at 12:39 am | Reply
      • blackHat

        johnny,

        If you're going to question Mr. Cheena's contributions to humanity, i'll go ahead and point out that he performs a job acting in an informative television program that attempts to demystify Indian culture for Western audiences. You, on the other hand, have done naught but jabber pointless invective (no doubt safe in the darkness of your parents' basement), equating gay people's relationships to "Sculpting a boat out of feces..." Stay classy, my cretinous friend.

        February 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Reply
      • Kevin

        Johnny has the right to believe that being gay is immoral and ungodly and evil and is not a positive ideal to strive for.

        February 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Reply
      • Aaron

        Yes, and we have the right to point out that he is bigoted and intolerant. Being gay is only immoral and ungodly if you actually believe in this mythical thing we call "God." This guy is a human being first, and his being gay does not define who he is. Regardless of your religious beliefs or prejudices, we live in a country that was founded on the principle that "all men are created equal," even gays.

        February 15, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Reply

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