Bandra bugger who loved music and theatre
City personalities from his early days as student and chef, recall the many sides to the celebrated chef that the world never knew of
Earlier this month, on March 5, culinary czars across the world, including Chef Floyd Cardoz grieved over the passing of Gray Kunz, the Singaporean-born Swiss restaurateur who rewrote the rules of fusion cooking. Little wonder that Cardoz in his tweet wrote: You were the greatest chef I know. Thank you for giving me the gift of finding myself in my cooking. You taught me how to cook and helped me be the chef I am today.
In a tug-at-the-heartstrings connect between mentor and mentee, Cardoz, also passed away in the same month (March 25), in a New York hospital. The 59-year-old celebrated chef and restaurateur had tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month on his return from India. He was the co-owner of two restaurants in Mumbai – The Bombay Canteen and O Pedro, and had returned to the US after March 8, post the launch of his third venture, the Bombay Sweet Shop. Cardoz had admitted himself to a hospital in New York, where he lived, with a fever around March 18. He had posted that he could have possibly contracted the infection in transit in Frankfurt.
Dev and Merlin D'souza
While the world will remember him as the master chef who gave the city inspired fare across both his restaurants, for musician Merlin D'souza, who grew up in the same neighbourhood, he was someone who loved to sing and dance. Such that he also acted and sang in a musical that D'souza had directed. "I was 17 and he was 19-20. His brother, Kim and I also formed a band called Fame back in the day, and his sister is my son's godmother. He was supportive of the community and the arts. He wanted to do more in life, which is how he ended up going to Switzerland to pursue his culinary education. We were all so proud of him for making Bandra and all of us proud," she recalls of her old suburban mate. And though she hadn't met him in 20 years, they met, albeit briefly around Christmastime last year, when he was in town. "I was about to go on stage, when someone tapped my back; I turned to see Floyd; he asked me if I recognised him. The meeting was cut short as I had to perform next, and by the time I was done, he had to leave. The world is going to miss him, but what a legacy he's left behind," D'souza says, adding that she is planning to sing a few songs and dedicate it to Cardoz soon.
Another Bandraite who will miss him dearly is theatre and film actor Denzil Smith. The two were benchmates at St Andrew's High School from Class 7-10. "We were besties who hung out a lot after school; we'd raid his mum's fridge. We went to watch movies together, one of which I clearly remember was Guns of Navarone," Smith shares.
While Cardoz went to St Xavier's, and later joined Dadar Catering College, Smith went to Nationals College and later entered advertising. "We reconnected 15 years ago. When he began to open restaurants in Mumbai, we started to meet more often. The last time we met was on Feb 22 on a friend's terrace in Bandra for a barbeque." Smith adds that Floyd always wanted to be a doctor which is why he studied biochemistry in college. "But he somehow ended up at the Dadar catering college," he laughs. The two were part of a gang of four friends, which also included legendary guitarist Roy Venkatraman and national-level bridge player Dr Subhir Roy.
Another Bandra connect is with Soul Fry owner, Meldan D'Cunha who worked with Cardoz at The Oberoi from 1986 to 89: "We were together in the Indian kitchen, and became good friends. He was always efficient and made a great decision to pursue his avenues in the US, as there's a lot of scope for Indian food there," recalls D'Cunha, who spots Floyd's brother, Kim - a singer and performer - frequently at Soul Fry.
If Kunz was Cardoz's mentor, then Dev Dhanda, who runs Desertvala in Delhi's GK1, calls the Goan chef his mentor. Dhanda remembers his time as pastry in-charge at Paowala in New York, when after his culinary course at CIA in 2015, he worked for Union Square Hospitality (Danny Mayer). In 2016, he trained under the pastry chef who worked with chef Floyd at North and Grill. "Chef was opening Paowala and wanted to hire someone to man the bakery section. I took a chance and landed up at the under-construction site with my CV. When he learnt that I was Mumbai-bred and studied at Jai Hind, we bonded. He was a solid mentor," the 27 year-old shared. Dhanda recalls how Cardoz was always on the floor, speaking to guests, and ready to answer questions when we had doubts. He allowed me to get into operations early in my career, and while he ran a professional kitchen, he didn't bar us from having some fun," he signs off reminding us that his greatest tribute to his mentor was to name his Delhi venture (Desertvala) after Cardoz's Paowala.
Bombay Canteen pays tribute
Bombay Canteen paid a tribute to the celebrated chef. They took to Instagram to post a heartwarming message. They wrote, "The outpour of love and wishes we’ve witnessed in the last few hours from across the world just goes to show what an incredible human being you were, and we’re ever so grateful that we were a part of your glorious life."
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Chef. Papaji. Floyd. FC. Where do we even begin. It seems like we all met a lifetime ago and yet it all seems so very short right now. You have touched our lives and so many more than we can ever count in the deepest of ways. You showed us what it means to live life to the fullest and be the best versions of ourselves all the time. You believed in the vision and in us more than we ever did and pushed us to be confident and proud in whatever we do, but also to be humble when we take a misstep. But most importantly to wear a smile while doing it all. We know you would’ve taught us so much more in the miles we had remaining together. The outpour of love and wishes we’ve witnessed in the last few hours from across the world just goes to show what an incredible human being you were, and we’re ever so grateful that we were a part of your glorious life. We will miss you in more ways than you can ever imagine. Love you Chef! Your legacy lives on forever. â¤ï¸
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