Indian-American chef Floyd Cardoz, the man behind New York’s now-closed Danny Meyer Indian restaurant Tabla, has taken home the $100,000 top prize in the third season of Top Chef Masters with a simple upma dish. In the Times of India:
South of the Vindhyas where it is a breakfast and ‘tiffin’ staple, the humble upma is sometimes derisively dismissed as “fertilizer” by snobbish foodies. Its down-to-earth origin is evident in its Tamil etymology, the word upma coming from uppu (salt) and maavu (flour), hence uppuma(vu). Also known as uppindi in Telugu and uppittu in Kannada, there’s nothing uppity about upma; it’s utterly plebeian, something maamis crank out as fast food.
But in the hands of the New York’s celebrated chef, Mumbai-born Floyd Cardoz, the unpretentious upma shot into international culinary limelight on Wednesday. Asked to prepare an item based on food memories, (or dishes that inspired them in their lives), in the final of the much-watched Top Chef Masters contest in Los Angeles, Cardoz whipped up an upma of semolina and mushroom to beat two other favorites and win the top prize of $ 100,000.
The result stunned food critics and viewers who had put the two other finalists, Mary Sue Milliken of Los Angeles’ Border Grill and Tracy Des Jardins of San Francisco’s Jardiniere, ahead of Cardoz, who co-founded and ran the upscale New York eatery Tabla with restaurantur Danny Meyer before it closed last year. In fact, Cardoz had lost to Milliken several times in the recent past, and ahead of the finale had wishfully told viewers, “She’s my friend, but I can’t wait to beat her.” More: