Chef-restaurateur Floyd Cardoz, one of India’s contemporary culinary greats who is widely credited with making American critics take Indian food seriously with his New York restaurant Tabla, passed away on Wednesday in New Jersey. The death is being attributed to Covid-19-related complications.
Cardoz flew to the US from Mumbai on 8 March via Frankfurt, according to his last Instagram post dated 18 March, in which he said that he was “feeling feverish and hence as a precautionary measure, admitted myself into hospital". He was 59.
“Floyd tested positive for Covid-19, in the US, on 18 March and was being treated for it at Mountainside Medical Centre in New Jersey, USA. He is survived by his mother Beryl, wife Barkha and sons Justin and Peter," said a spokesperson from Hunger Inc., the Indian food and beverage (F&B) company he co-founded in 2014.
The Mumbai- and New York-based chef started his career with the Taj Hotels group in 1984. In 1996, he started his modern Indian restaurant Tabla and the Bombay Bread Bar in New York, which shut down after a 14-year run in 2010. In 2014, he co-founded Hunger Inc with Sameer Seth, Yash Bhanage, and Thomas Zacharias. The group runs hugely successful Mumbai restaurants The Bombay Canteen (TBC) and O Pedro, and recently launched Bombay Sweet Shop, a cafe/production facility that reimagines Indian mithai.
Cardoz was in Mumbai for the fifth anniversary celebrations of The Bombay Canteen on 1 March and a soft-launch party of the new venture on 7 March. Both parties are known to have been attended by more than 100 guests.
The Indian F&B industry is in a state of shock at the news of his death. “He was the first flag-bearer of Indian food in the US, moving away from the stereotype of curry houses and chicken tikka masala. I have dined both at Tabla and The Bombay Bread Bar in the past and found them a relief from the stuff that passes as Indian food (in the US). Now, The Bombay Canteen is doing so well with a fantastic team of chefs and young owners. There is so much to learn from what he has helped put together," said Manish Mehrotra, corporate chef, Indian Accent restaurants.
“I met Floyd for the first time in 2001 when I was in culinary school... He asked me if I wanted to apprentice at Tabla and I said I didn’t want to do Indian food. He was deeply offended. ‘I don’t do “Indian" food,’ he said, emphasising the ‘Indian’, and showed us around the kitchen. That’s when I realized that he was steeped in French technique, which of course makes sense because he was the right-hand man of the legendary Gray Kunz at Lespinasse for many years," said Manu Chandra, chef-partner at Olive Bar and Kitchen Pvt Ltd.
“Floyd was a man I greatly admired and was inspired by when I was starting out... Another Goan gone too soon and at 59, soon after we lost Wendell (designer Wendell Rodericks)," said Chandra.
“I interviewed him three weeks ago & still can’t believe he’s gone," tweeted journalist-food critic Vir Sanghvi on Wednesday evening. “Chef Cardoz has a profound legacy, both in India and the US… He made New York critics take Indian food seriously and Tabla and Bread Bar introduced Indian food to new audiences at two levels, one a rarefied modern Indian version and the other a fun, accessible one," said Sanghvi.
“Chef Floyd was a global icon in the food world. His mark on the restaurant industry in both New York and Mumbai is legendary and it’s unimaginable to think he is no more. He was someone the entire industry looked up to," said Gauri Devidayal, co-founder, The Table, Magazine Street Kitchen and Iktara, Mumbai.
“I remember jointly working with Floyd for a dinner event at Tabla a couple of years ago. He was a great guy to work with, full of zest and passion," said Hemant Oberoi, former executive chef of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
Avantika Bhuyan and Jahnabee Borah contributed to this story