Aarthi Sampath rose to fame when she was honoured with the opportunity to work with celebrated chef Vikas Khanna on catering The Billionaire’s Club Dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City, in 2016.
The 32-year-old chef of Indian origin was recently in the news again after winning Beat Bobby Flay, an American competitive cooking show, with her signature Biryani.
Aarthi’s foray into the culinary world began with an exploration of flavours found in the kitchens of Mumbai. “I have loved food all my life. I started dabbling in the art at the age of 13, in my mother’s kitchen. Since then, my passion for crafting recipes has only grown,” she says.
Her passion for cooking led her to pursue a degree at the Institute of Hotel Management, Jaipur, and then seek a position in the Taj Hotel Group Management Trainee Programme. After working with the Taj Group in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai for five years, she moved to the USA to attend Johnson & Wales University. And she eventually ended up at Junoon, an iconic Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in New York.
The first Indian woman to win the American cooking show Chopped, she is no stranger to challenges. “I have faced every kind of bias because I am a brown woman. But once people realise how talented you are, you surpass every misrepresentation. I truly believe that women have a power when it comes to food. They impart a maternal love to their dishes,” Aarthi says.
Her incessant efforts and drive have made her an empowered female chef and a global translator of Indian cooking. She says that she has her mentor, Chef Vikas Khanna, to thank for her achievements. “Chef Vikas has been my mentor since my time at Junoon. We have worked together on multiple projects, including elaborate menus, and books. He inspires me to be a better person and a better cook,” she says.
Talking about her experience cooking for Mr Modi, she says, “While working in New York, we were presented with an opportunity for cook for a conference that was to be attended by Mr Modi. The menu consisted of traditional, vegetarian Indian dishes served in the most elegant way; dishes such as sol kadi, dhokla, and rotli, to name a few.”
Apart from the Prime Minister, Aarthi has cooked for several other Indian officials and American actors, but that’s not what she’s most proud of. “For me, my parents are true celebrities, the greatest people I’ve cooked for.”
Currently, Aarthi, along with ex- Amazonian Shilpi Gupta, is making waves in Seattle with her new food truck, Kukree. Their food is inspired by global flavours and it aims to bring fine-dining to the masses.