Chef Floyd Cardoz, executive chef at New York's esteemed Tabla, is to my mind the living embodiment of the fictional Chef Hassan Haji found in my novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Chef Cardoz is, like Chef Haji, equally at home with Western haute cuisine and with the spicy dishes of his Indian-Goan heritage. The extraordinary thing is, we did not know each other when I wrote my book, but met afterwards, when I gave Chef Cardoz an advance copy of my novel to read.
His immediate emailed response: "The uncanny thing about this book is the many similarities between what is happening in the book and my life's journey; it almost seems that I told you my story... What is so strange is stuff is being dug out from my memory that I had long forgotten. It is as if we were best friends and you knew everything about me, details that are not known to any one but me." He repeated similar remarks to the Village Voice.
I was, of course, deeply flattered, and with so much in common between the real-life Chef Cardoz and my fictional Chef Haji, I got a little ballsy. Specifically, I talked my way into Tabla's kitchen and asked the great New York chef to make two dishes from The Hundred-Foot Journey.
The dishes that Chef Cardoz decided to make from the book are Trotters Soup - Chef Haji's personal comfort food - and Onion Bhajis, which I snuck into the book because they are, by unanimous decision, the favorite Indian starter within the Morais household. To see Chef Cardoz's recipes for these relatively easy to prepare Indian dishes, click here and here.
To learn more about Chef Cardoz's extraordinary skill in the kitchen, I highly recommend you check out his excellent cookbook, One Spice, Two Spice: American Food, Indian Flavors. I personally am totally taken by his Goan Spiced Roast Pork Tenderloin and his Pan-Roasted Cod and Clams With Basmati Kanji. They are to my mind a fantastic melding of the best of Portuguese and Indian cuisines. Here is a Simon & Schuster midwifed interview we had.
But what about the mysterious link between Chef Cardoz's life in the kitchen and my fictional Chef Haji? Here's a hint: the commonalities involve two key scenes from my novel that take place in Bombay and Paris. To hear Cardoz explain it, watch this short video, made by Jay Kilachand: