Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more.
All week, Eatocracy has invited you to dig in and discover the rich, ever-evolving taste of America in 2011 - ultimately culminating in the fourth edition of our Secret Supper in New York City.
Tonight, Eatocracy has gathered together some of New York's most dynamic and vocal residents at Red Rooster to not only stuff them with a multi-course meal crafted by Marcus Samuelsson, Suvir Saran and George Mendes, but also to talk about the inextricable bond between food and cultural identity.
After a week reminiscing on the flavors of home, it's time to finally dip into the cultural melting pot and pull up a chair to our virtual table.
"My dish is about changing the paradigm...Eating a veggie burger can be just as celebrated as a bacon cheeseburger.”
Unfortunately for Top Chef Masters contestant Suvir Saran, said burger, prepared for a meat-loving lass from the cast of The Biggest Loser, changed only his status in the competition. The judging panel sent Saran packing after a few harsh comments about his "mashed potato patty wedged into a slice of pita," but he made a graceful exit.
"I made a dish that was about living better rather than tasting close to what one craves," said the chef, himself a vegetarian.
Still there was a hint of nervous anticipation in the air last night, when Saran and fellow contestant Mary Sue Milliken - who won the main challenge in the most recently aired episode - encountered the show's most outspoken judge, Saveur's editor-in-chief James Oseland near the red carpet at the James Beard Awards Gala.
Watch what happened when the trio met up.
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 second 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 one
How has being a world-respected chef influenced your ability to perform advocacy work?
I may be respected around the world, but my bank account does not reflect the wealth of one who has achieved much. I never worry about this fact. I treat money as transient, something we have to only be leaving us. To me amassed wealth is almost akin to some corruption that takes away from our soul and spirit.
And so, I take my place in the world of food as a means to also that little fame and my few minutes in the limelight as a means of sharing, educating, learning and leaving some legacy. The cookbooks I have written, my restaurant Devi, my affiliation and my presence at Cornell University, UC Berkeley and at Yale, as also other campuses and corporate dining facilities have given me a larger platform than I could have ever created for myself. Since I bring with me critically acclaimed books, with quotes from very celebrated authors and chefs of repute – people listen to me and invest some time in what I have to say.
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.
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