‘There’s a camaraderie in the kitchen’

Travelling heritage: (Clockwise from left) Guava Empanadas; Mary Sue Milliken and Asha Gomez; Spiced Tomato Pie.

Travelling heritage: (Clockwise from left) Guava Empanadas; Mary Sue Milliken and Asha Gomez; Spiced Tomato Pie.  

Celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Asha Gomez will serve food inspired by their travels, local produce and their culinary heritage this weekend

The mutual appreciation that radiates from Mary Sue Milliken and Asha Gomez is palpable. The two chefs are meeting for the first time on Indian soil to discuss their guest stint with The Hindu. Milliken recounts how the two met for the first time, “We were in Palm Springs together, at a James Beard Foundation, a sort of convening of chefs who are interested in working in advocacy and working to support the Sustainable Development Goals that intersect with the food systems in many ways.” There’s a palpable excitement in the air as they speak, with each interested to explore Mumbai with the other before donning their chef coats.

‘There’s a camaraderie in the kitchen’

The two women also happen to be celebrity chefs, Milliken for her restaurants across Los Angeles and Las Vegas, in addition to the five cookbooks she has written and her appearance on Top Chef Masters and Gomez for culinary studio in Atlanta, The Third Space, her cookbook and her turn on David Chang’s popular Netflix special, Ugly Delicious.

First-time partners

They’ve never cooked together, but will be doing so for the first time this weekend at Magazine Street Kitchen. While Milliken is known for her Latin fare, Gomez has come to prominence for her South Indian food, though their menu for the weekend draws on their travels and interests. So, you can expect a paella of chicken and seafood from Gomez and a passionfruit and lobster agua chile from Milliken to highlight two dishes.

‘There’s a camaraderie in the kitchen’

When asked if they would be helping each other in the kitchen, Gomez, who is the more animated of the two, says, “It all kind of came together beautifully,” before adding, “there’s a camaraderie in the kitchen as chefs, I don’t like to feel isolated.” Milliken who’s had a day to acclimatise to Mumbai interjects, speaking to Gomez, “I saw some green chickpeas that we can use in the paella, it will be delicious. I do that at home sometimes.” These musings punctuate the conversation, which makes this interviewer more of an interloper during a friendly chat.

Food advocates

Milliken and Gomez are in the country as part of a larger trip organised by Share Our Strength. Says Gomez in her Southern drawl, “We’re both really passionate about the advocacy work that we do. In the US right now, chefs have really taken on advocacy.” As part of their trip, they’re going to be meeting with chefs in the country and seeing how their funding of Akshaya Patra (via Share our Strength, where Milliken is on the board) is impacting the lives of children across the country. The duo unsurprisingly is excited to see how food is cooked at the scale demanded, with Gomez explaining, “Their kitchens put out upwards of 100,000 meals a day.” They’re looking for lessons to take back home, where, as Milliken explains it, “Kids, by the time they get to school – their palates are conditioned to only want to eat sugar, fat and salt. Food that is really just not healthy.”

For the next few days though, there’s an excitement to explore the city, from its food offerings to its markets, docks and tourist sights. Gomez says the inspiration for her aforementioned paella came from the fact that, “Bombay is such a great seafood city.” She’s especially looking forward to her visit to Sassoon Dock. Milliken’s Border Grill may serve up ‘Modern Mexican’, but as she makes clear during our conversation, her cooking is defined by her travels. She’s always excited to go beyond the fare she’s learned while travelling through Mexico, from the capital Mexico City to Pueblo and beyond. Before Mumbai, she was in Cairo and she looks at travel as a way to explore the world and the food being served by different cultures.

Gomez, who’s carved an identity for herself as a first-generation immigrant from Kerala is seeking to broaden her culinary horizons and synthesise the inspirations and techniques she’s learned while travelling the world. Both see this weekend’s pop-up as a part of that journey, extending from India back to their kitchens in the US.

To book dinner on February 1 or brunch on February 2 at Magazine Street Kitchen, see

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 9:35:25 AM |

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