You say that your first visit to India ‘transformed you as a chef’. What was it about India and Indian cuisine that had such a significant impact on your cooking?
All of my training had been in strict French kitchens in the US. Then I worked a year in a 3-star restaurant in the south of France. But that first trip to India, I spent much of my stay there in the kitchen on the Ashram. I met a chef who was living in India, he introduced me to the people working in the kitchen at the Ashram. It was all vegetarian, doing seemingly simple food, but I was blown away by the flavours, the spices, the use of ‘daals’ (inside of the beans), the way dishes were finished. Everything about the people, their appreciation of life transported me to another world. I fell in love with everything about India. The colours, the jewellery, the spirit, the clothing, the flavours, spices, life in general. When I returned to LA, we put a number of Indian dishes on our menu. Our vegetarian plate became the most labour intensive dish on our menu but truly, it made me see the food in front of my eyes, very differently. It made my senses much more focused on spices and flavours in a way I never found in the French kitchen. So I explored this more and more and hence eventually STREET (restaurant).