Slurrp Exclusive: Chef Suvir Saran On His Love For Ice Cream, Inspirations And More
- Tavishi Dogra
Updated : January 20, 2022 05:01 IST
Slurrp Exclusive interview with Chef Suvir Saran on giving America a taste of India.
Suvir Saran, a chef, farm advocate, cookbook writer, and instructor specialising in getting Indian cuisine to the American kitchen, lived in American Masala Farm with Charlie, his partner in Hebron, New York. In 1993, before leaving India to study in New York City at the School of Visual Arts, he studied visual arts at Sir J. J. School of Art in Bombay. During this time, he enjoyed entertaining friends and cooking when he was going to school or not working. Later he quickly took this hobby into a catering business Rasoi, The Indian Kitchen. At New York University's Professional Development and Continuing Education Program, he joined the Food and Nutrition staff in 1997. Later on East 18th Street in New York City, he became an executive chef at Dévi. He also appeared on Bravo's Top Chef: Masters (season 3) and wrote several best-selling cookbooks.
Name your first childhood memory of cooking?
My earliest memories are all-around food. From making no-churn ice cream with my mum in our Delhi kitchen to helping her assemble a trifle pudding or baking the best cakes, people in Delhi had eaten in the 1970s. Mom was a fantastic baker at a time in Delhi when few knew how to bake, and fewer even had ovens. She was the one making cakes for all our family and friends circle and often for strangers who would request them. At her side, I learned how to bake, cook and most importantly, how to persevere despite all odds and challenges. She had few tools, and those she had were antiquated, yet she had the desire and will, the patience of a saint and the desire to feed and please, which was taught to me at a young age. The very essence of hospitality and cooking. These form the building blocks of my memory from the earliest of days that I thought and memorized.
What made you pursue cooking as a career?
Having grown up in a home where food was paramount and at each meal, we discussed what we would eat in the next mealtime or snack time, food was that link that glued us all together and gave us something in common to speak about, a debate about, reminisce about and to look forward to. India of the 1970s and early ‘80s wasn’t an India with a gazillion TV channels or much entertainment that came from the idiot box or a cellular phone. Our friends and family were the people that made us who we were. I had grown up loving food and seeing a home full of guests and a table always ready to accommodate more at the drop of a hat. Then I moved to the US to pursue visual and commercial arts. Every night I cooked for classmates and strangers alike. On a student budget, open home and table that my poor parents subsidised and my student loans. One thing led to another. Many chance meetings led to me becoming a caterer as people felt I was cooking the best food in NYC, not just the best Indian food. One day a very able and successful restauranteur, the founder/owner of the Baluchi group of Indian restaurants in NYC, Rakesh Agrawal, came to me and asked me to open a temple for Indian cuisine with him, and thus began my journey as a chef. At Devi, our restaurant, we got the first Michelin Star for any Indian restaurant in North America and also the first for a non-Northern European restaurant.
Tell us about the journey to Cold Love, the roadblocks and the success?
- My dearest classmate, the uber-talented musical diva, the one and only Sonam Kalra, introduced me to Cold Love. I had recently moved back from the US, where I enjoyed a pint of ice cream nightly as I watched the news or a show in bed. Soon, I found myself doing the same with Aditya Tripathi’s Cold Love ice cream containers. The principles that Aditya holds dear to his heart at the very same ones that Chef Vardaan Marwah, my mentee and partner in this sweet and delicious enterprise, keep close to our hearts.
- The roadblocks haven’t shown up yet. With Aditya’s sound business acumen and solid know-how about functioning in the Indian realm, his IIM Ahmedabad credentials - we are assured business functioning that won’t be too wild. Samir Kuckreja, whose years heading Nirula’s at their peak, give us industry know-how that cannot be matched, and of course, my 25 plus years cooking, making ice cream, and dreaming food, married with Chef Vardaan’s hunger to learn and grow, persevere and labour tirelessly - we have created a team with rich and varied strengths. We hope to keep tackling challenges with our heads held high, strive to maintain our standards, and create new benchmarks within the food business's ice cream and dessert segment in India and abroad.
What is your favourite recipe or comfort food?
Did you even need to ask? Hehe. Of course, it is ice cream. I could have it for every meal and only ice cream at every meal. Simple everyday dal and sabzi are my ultimate daily fare—also pasta and homemade bhel. I make ice cream at the drop of a hat and have three professional ice cream machines at home.
The pandemic hugely affected the F&B industry. How did it affect you personally?
- The pandemic made me reach out to Aditya Tripathi and Samir Kuckreja and suggest that Chef Vardaan Marwah and I work with them and create new offerings and bring even a deeper set of offerings to the brand. Luckily for us, those two visionary founders of Cold Love saw potential in our partnership, and the rest is history.
- Chef Vardaan and I have been there for many employees we had worked with in other business ventures and have ensured we have supported our fellow F&B industry workers as best possible in whatever way we can. We are still there to connect people with jobs and help in ways we can make another life a tad less stressed.
The pandemic also led to many food trends. Did you try any and see any of them becoming prominent shortly?
Ice cream has become more popular, and I feel like having DIY kits and cooking at home. I see sauces and condiments, dips and chips, all of these as trends that shall last and grow. Delivery is here to stay as a mainstay. Let’s hope we offer better and healthier options sooner than later. I am excited to see Cold Love delivering Love Bombs, and it makes me proud to know that diners at home can end their meals with these gorgeous bites of ice cream that are at once beautiful and tasty, also memorable and inspired.
What would you like to tell aspiring chefs?
- I want aspiring chefs to remember that we don’t come into the hospitality industry to rest and feed our egos. The F&B sector evolves daily and grows to new forms and functions as intuitively and rapidly as the protean moods and desires of its richly diverse customer base. To be a chef, a chief, we have to understand the business, know how to handle human capital, how to invest in Human Resources, how to appreciate diversity, glean what is most suitable at the moment, and provide safe and welcoming spaces for our employees and guests, and to do so in settings that are inspired and beautiful and lead to memorable experiences for our guests, our customer.
- A chef is not merely a cook; a chef is a conductor and orchestrator at once, juggling an entire orchestra of front and back employees, conducting service and curating meals that are at once tasty, beautiful and memorable. It takes a lot to become a chef, and it takes a lot further when you get there. To be on top of the game, one has to learn daily, practice new learnings daily, always be most intuitive about the customers' needs, and fit them into the business principles and plans. So remember you want to be a chief executive, a chef, and work hard, with dedication, focus, vision, and deep commitment to that idea, and then work hard against all odds to get there.
What are your plans with Cold Love?
To create offerings of sweet and some savoury bites that make people realize the perennial charm of ice cream and desserts. How they are beyond seasonal and regional. No meal time is complete without a sweet ending, and no life is comfortably grounded and happy without some decadent indulgence. I hope that together as a whole, our team at Cold Love continues to chase quality, consistency, taste and comfort, and keeps bringing our customers offerings that sate their hunger, feed their curiosity and leave them with the ease of lasting memories that make for new comfort foods and sweet bites.