Yesterday, we announced the lineup for our 2017 Friends of the Café dinner series. Visiting chefs Scott Peacock and Ashley Christensen are familiar to our Journal readers, and today we want to introduce Asha Gomez—our guest chef in August.
Asha Gomez is an Atlanta-based chef who combines influences from her birthplace in Kerala, India, with those of her current home in the American South. The region of India where she was born is known for its Dutch and Portuguese influences, and the cuisine is distinctly different from what we consider traditional Indian food. As a child, Asha’s mother and aunts taught her how to cook using ingredients that arrived via the city’s trading port and traditional Kerala ingredients like asafoetida, a spice derived from a ten-foot-tall plant related to fennel.
Gomez and her mother emigrated to the United States when she was 16. As a teenager in Queens, New York, she gained experience with professional cooking, assisting her mother with her catering business. In 2000, Asha and her husband moved to Georgia, where she felt an immediate kinship with the Southern hospitality that reminded her of her birthplace in Southern India. She became known in the community for her Keralan meals and founded the Spice Route Supper Club, where she hosted small groups of diners in her own kitchen. The supper club’s popularity eventually led Asha to open her first restaurant, Cardamom Hill—a fine dining establishment that was named one of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants, was one of Southern Living’s 100 Best Restaurants in the South, and was a James Beard semifinalist in 2013 for Best New Restaurant. Its signature dish, Kerala fried chicken (her mother’s recipe), is well known and loved among Atlantans. In July 2014, she voluntarily closed the restaurant to spend more time with her family.
In 2013, Asha opened Third Space, a warm and inviting event venue that she calls a “culinary conversation.” The project allows her to have a more ideal work-life balance. The venue offers cooking classes in a home-style kitchen with Gomez and guest chefs. The space is intimate—with a 10-seat counter and 12-seat dining room—and allows participants to build relationships with their expert collaborators. For her, the classes are a return to the more intimate cooking style Gomez prefers with patrons. Third Space also hosts corporate events and small, private dinners.
Asha’s second restaurant, Spice to Table, opened in 2014 and is a fast-casual Indian patisserie connected to Third Space. At Spice to Table, Gomez and her staff plan their daily menu based off of finds at one of Atlanta’s many farmers’ markets. It has been named one of Zagat’s 12 Hottest Brunch Places in the US and one of the 25 best new restaurants in America by GQ Magazine. Here, she combines the best of South India with the American South by taking a classic Southern dish and amplifying it using Indian spices like clove, cardamom, and fresh peppercorns in her carrot cake. While managing these two ventures, she also acts as a Chef Ambassador with CARE, a non-profit that provides emergency relief and long-term international development projects.
In October, she published her first cookbook, My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen. The cookbook tells the story of how she blended her Indian heritage with her American home, to create a new style of cooking. As with her other endeavors, My Two Souths presents a platform for Gomez to share her love and knowledge of the world’s cultures as it relates to food. Gomez thoroughly prepares readers to cook by including a glossary detailing the origins of and ways to use ingredients. Throughout the book, she provides a further glimpse into her life with images of food, family gatherings, and her trips to the farmers market.
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