Aarti Sequeira, host of Food Network’s “Aarti Party,” winner of “Food Network Star” and author of cookbook “Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul,” will be bringing her talents in Indian-fused comfort cooking to the Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival. She is set to prepare her spectacular arayes [Lebanese spiced beef pitas] during the grand tastings taking place April 9 – 10.
Sequeira took the time to discuss what she’s excited about at the festival, as well as her take on Southern California’s food culture.
4. What brings you to the Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival?
“The lineup of other chefs who are cooking! Cat Cora, Suzanne, Ricardo…they’re all amazing people! A few years back, I would have just marveled at their celebrity. These people are all warriors in the kitchen. I jumped at the chance to be mentioned in the same breath as them.”
“The festival also parallels so many things I believe in as a chef. Lots of creativity and combining flavors. The tagline of my book is ‘American kitchen with an Indian soul,’ and this is where American cooking is going. You have second, third generation immigrants trying to recognize the two different sides of their story. I love being American, I love being an immigrant, and it comes down to how to best put both of those sides together. Food is a natural gap-catcher. Cooking helps people reconcile their differences and combine the best of all worlds.”
How do you see Southern California growing as a food destination?
“I think that the food scene in Southern California has always been the best in the country. I think that the rest of the country is just now waking up to that. The fact that we have more donut shops per capita that anywhere in the country tells you something…we love to eat! There’s nowhere in the country that has a wider diversity of ethnic food than LA. The most exciting thing to me is that you can find something like a vegetarian Ethiopian restaurant in a heartbeat.”
“Chefs go to each other’s restaurants and take back ethnic flavors to add to their own kitchens. French, Indian, American, Thai. Those little voyages of exploration show up on menus all over. You’re finding cutting edge cooking here. You’re finding cutting edge everything here.”
How do you define ‘the modern palate’
“In a word, curious. People today love new tastes, always looking for different combinations of flavors. Food doesn’t fall into categories like it used to. People want different combinations, innovations, ways to be surprised and delighted.”
“Also, adventurous. People are much more exposed to their food and culture because of the internet. In particular, this generation is willing to drive an hour and a half in order to experience a dish that they’ve seen online. We’re reached the saturation point of seeing photos of food. Now people want more. They want to see where it came from and how it’s made.”
“We’re in a generation of experiences. People here are willing to try. They’re curious, adventurous and literally hungry for the next new thing.”