Over a century ago, long before anyone became aware of the term multi-cultural, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem called “The Ballad of East & West“ whose initial line reads: “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.”
Well, time proved him incorrect, the twain meets all the time, and the many who live, well, anywhere, have often been introduced to different cultures through the twain of great cuisine.
Many great chefs in major cities have multicultural backgrounds. Indeed, it might be argued that having such a background is a necessity. Learning diverse food preparation, understanding the nuance of spice, as well as the seasonal balance of texture and color all require some form of travel, leaving the familiar and journeying on unfamiliar culinary roads.
It is no wonder then that the Ritz Carlton Atlanta announced, only weeks ago, that Chef Ramesh Kaduru would become the new Executive at their awards-winning hotel. Kaduru is a compelling, reflective fit for the elite Ritz Carlton brand, reflecting the emerging, multi-cultural identity of Atlanta.
But Chef Kaduru is no stranger to the Ritz-Carlton, as he served as the Executive Chef at the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove in Miami, where he led all the food and beverage operations in its four star restaurant. In 2013, he also engineered and created a Pop-Up restaurant at the RC Coconut Grove, entitled A Passage to India, where he prepared great Indian dishes and gave cooking lessons also. Menu selections included both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options with traditional favorites such as Masala Shrimp, Chicken Tikka, Masala Dosa and Dal Makhani.
But his culinary journey began even earlier at the Ritz Carlton Naples, where he honed his culinary craft through applying the strategies of garde manger. And later at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, Chef Kaduru trained and led a dedicated culinary team to teach all aspects of garde manger. A garde manger (French for “keeper of the food”) is a cool, well-ventilated area where cold dishes are prepared and other foods are stored under refrigeration. The person in charge of this area is known as the chef garde manger.
But, a Garde Manger chef must be expert more than just cold food and garnish. He or she also must best expert at seasoning, poaching, simmering, searing, roasting, frying, curing, drying, smoking, and much more. The items prepared in a Garde Manger kitchen must be perfectly seasoned, where seasonings need to compliment, not dominate the item being prepared. Thus, having a diverse sense of taste, is the necessary characteristic of a Garde Manger chef, one whose taste memory is alive and well, and leads the way.
Now, at the Ritz Carlton Atlanta, Chef Kaduru will oversee the culinary programs of Atlanta Grill, and Lumen, the Hotel’s Lobby Bar and Lounge. It was also said that he would also supervise the culinary dimensions of multi-cultural events, like Diwali, the Indian Festival Of Lights, and traditional Indian weddings, as he has in the past at other Ritz Carlton’s.
Pursuitist was fortunate to talk with Chef Kaduru on a recent trip to Atlanta.
Pursuitist: Where were you born and raised?
Chef Kaduru: I was born in Chennai – originally called Madras, in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, on the Coromandel Coast in South India. I came here in 2000, after I received my diploma in Hotel Management And Catering Technology, as well as a general Bachelor of Science degree from S.V. University in Tirupati, India. I first worked on a cruise line, but came to work at the Ritz Carlton in 2002. I have been here ever since.
Pursuitist: Who was your major culinary influence as you were growing up? Was there anyone in your family who taught you the basics of cooking? Did you learn from passion or necessity?
Chef Kaduru: We always ate well, but my mother was the one who inspired me. She was a great cook, and helped me understand the basics. I was the first person in my family ever to go to culinary school and hoped to become a chef also. Everyone else in my family are doctors and engineers.
Pursuitist: How did your mother finally accept your wanting to do something so different?
Chef Kaduru: One day, she said, well, after seeing a doctor, people need to have a good meal, so she thought that my work was as relevant and needful as a doctor’s. I was happy with that!
Pursuitist: There is such a spiritual connection with food in India, probably because it is a vegetarian country, no meat. How do you see this connection?
Chef Kaduru: We believe in such a connection with the food we eat. Not only does it nourish us, but also it plays a role in the creation of relationships, community interactions and understanding others. Great cuisine provides a deep basis for great multicultural understanding. That said, even though I come from India, I enjoy doing both things: cooking with vegetables, cooking with meat. I am bi-lingual in that way!
Pursuitist: Could you explain some of the basic differences?
Chef Kaduru: I was thinking about this recently — The basic difference between French and Indian food? With French, they cook with wines and stock; with Indian, they cook with water and spices, mainly Turmeric, Cumin, and various curries. French and many other types of cooking use meat as stock, whereas vegetarians use water and spice as stock.
Pursuitist: Is there anything you cook with, spices, vegetables, peppers, that you have a hard time finding in the United States?
Chef Kaduru: Even the most subtle of spices, or the hottest, we can get here in the U.S. I am always learning about new food preparations, new techniques and always happily surprised at the diversity of flavors I find here. Being here in the U.S. is a really chef’s dream.