The Culinary World Is Mourning An Iconic Chef And "Top Chef Masters" Winner Who Died Of The Coronavirus

Chef Floyd Cardoz

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Floyd Cardoz, a celebrated Indian American chef in New York City who had a huge impact on the international culinary world, died Wednesday after testing positive for the coronavirus a week ago.

Cardoz, 59, was being treated at the Mountainside Medical Center in New Jersey after he tested positive for the virus on March 18, a spokesperson for Hunger Inc. Hospitality, where he was a partner, told BuzzFeed News. He was in Mumbai recently and flew back to New York on March 8 via Frankfurt. Cardoz is survived by his mother, Beryl, his wife, Barkha, and their sons, Justin and Peter.

Cardoz, a four-time James Beard Award nominee and a winner of Top Chef Masters, helmed the iconic Tabla restaurant in New York City before it shut in 2010.

He was the partner at two popular restaurants in Mumbai — the Bombay Canteen and O Pedro — and had recently launched a third establishment, Bombay Sweet Shop.

Cardoz’s death was met with shock and grief by chefs, food critics and writers, restaurateurs, and others across the culinary world where he was long considered a pioneer of bringing Indian flavors to America.

Jason Perlow, a former food blogger in Florida, often met Cardoz at food events in New York City and at Tabla, where he dined frequently with his wife and friends in the mid-2000s.

“He was always the most accommodating person,” Perlow told BuzzFeed News.

Perlow said he distinctly remembered that Cardoz was one of the first people to import Indian mangoes to New York City and introduced the fruit to the American culinary world at Tabla.

Perlow recalled how Cardoz took him and his wife to the back of his kitchen at Tabla where there were “boxes and boxes of Indian mangoes.” Cardoz would peel “a special one” for Perlow and his wife and make a dessert with it for them, usually a rice pudding.

“He was the happiest guy and the most welcoming host at any of the restaurants he worked for,” Perlow said. “It’s a tremendous loss to the culinary world now that he’s gone.”

“For those who have been watching this thing sequestered in our homes, you hear of people dying on the internet. But it doesn’t really hit you until it’s somebody that you know,” Perlow said.

Cardoz had a huge impact on many younger chefs in India.

Saransh Goila, a popular Mumbai chef, said that he first heard about Cardoz at his culinary school and looked up to him like many other students.

“He was often cited as a chef who made Indian cuisine proud in the US and was making people internationally aware of our food,” Goila told BuzzFeed News.

He said that it was a dream for him to first meet Cardoz in 2012.

“The last time I met him in Mumbai, I shared with him the difficulties I was facing as an entrepreneur and he asked me to keep on walking the path, no matter where it takes me,” Goila said. “He will be missed thoroughly but his legacy will live on.”

Joshua D’Costa, a 28-year-old chef in Mumbai, said Cardoz was his mentor, a culinary figure “you would only strive to be.”

D’Costa told BuzzFeed News that he met Cardoz when Bombay Canteen first opened in 2015.

“He was kind and polite, unlike chefs you meet on the regular,” D’Costa said. “Even though I left to start my own business two years later, he was always so kind and would ask about my wellbeing every time we met.”

D’Costa last met Cardoz at the opening of Bombay Sweet Shop.

“He was so happy to see me,” D’Costa said, adding that Cardoz was kind enough to ask him about his back injury that was keeping him away from the kitchen. He offered D’Costa to join his restaurant when he had recovered.

“We talked for a good 20 minutes and took some pictures which will keep his memory live in my mind,” D’Costa said.

Joshua D’Costa (left) with Floyd Cardoz

Khushbu Shah, a restaurant editor at Food & Wine magazine, said Cardoz “paved the way for many South Asians in the food space.”

“Floyd was one of those chefs who could cook circles around everyone and had such a deep understanding of flavor,” Shah told BuzzFeed News. “He was early to things, and maybe too early, that people didn’t often credit him enough for his innovations.”

Shah recalled the time Cardoz sat with her for an hourlong interview even as he was in the middle of prepping for service at his Soho restaurant Paowalla, which had just opened.

“He sat down with me for over an hour answering whatever questions I had and insisted on feeding me too,” Shah said. “Peak Indian uncle in the best way! He was always so kind, so generous, and had this laugh that just was so genuine and always attached to a big smile. I will miss his spirit and determination.”

Many others in the food industry paid tribute to Cardoz on social media.

Padma Lakshmi, the host of Top Chef, said Cardoz “made us all so proud.”

Chef David Chang, host of the Netflix show Ugly Delicious which recently featured Cardoz in an episode, said Cardoz was “criminally under appreciated” despite being “one of the most beloved people in the business.”

“Floyd was one of my earliest supporters and he would saddle up at the old noodle bar with his sons and they would each order a bowl of spicy tripe,” Chang said.

New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells called Cardoz an “exceptional talent.”

Danny Meyers — the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, who worked with Cardoz for 17 years and was his partner at Tabla and North End Grill — posted an emotional tribute to his close friend, saying he made “monumental contributions” to the industry.

“Few people have done more than Floyd to impact an entire industry, the career trajectories of more cooks, or the palates of more restaurant goers,” Meyers said. “He was beyond talented as a cook. He was a super-taster, big-hearted, stubborn as the day is long, and the most loyal friend, husband, and dad you could imagine. My heart is just broken.”

Food writers and others in the South Asian diaspora, paid tribute to Cardoz, recognizing his groundbreaking role in advancing and reinventing Indian food in America.

Many in the Indian food industry also mourned the loss of Cardoz.

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  • Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

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