The 2012 Varli Culinary Awards
by manu narayan
What is the first question that any Indian food lover asks when they visit New York City? “What is the best Indian restaurant in town?” I am constantly asked this by my friends and family and usually have some vague answer depending on the day and where I usually go.
Well, how cool is this? I was recently asked to co-host an awards show that sought to crown winners of not just the Best Indian Restaurant in NYC, but the best in many other categories as well – Best Chef, Best Mixologist, Best Regional Indian Restaurant, Best Upcoming Chef, Best Dessert and Pastry Chef etc..
Well, on November 15, 2012, I had the honor of co-hosting the first annual 2012 Varli Culinary Awards at The Altman Building in New York, with some of the greatest Indian culinary stars.
The night had everything. Amazing food from some of my favorite restaurants including my personal favorite Tulsi with Master Chef Hemanth Mathur himself supervising the incredible dishes that were being served.
Of course, there was incredible conversation to be had in the VIP room with culinary lovers from all industries.
The night started with a killer Red Carpet where star chefs, actors, producers, and industrialists all came together. The real culinary stars though were my new friends and fellow co-hosts India’s culinary master Sanjeev Kapoor, the cool New York celebrity chef /restaurateur of Mehtaphor and Graffiti and currently competing on The Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef Redemption, Jehangir Mehta, and the UAE power food critic and television personality Gaurav Tandon.
Actress Tamara Tunie, star of Law and Order SVU and currently co-star of the film Flight, presented an award….
… as did Bollywood actor Chandrachur Singh.
Gabriella Gershenson, Senior Editor of Saveur Magazine, Atul Kumria of Kingfisher Airlines, Umaesh Mody founder of Maya Foods, Rajesh Bhardwaj of Michelin starred Junoon Restaurant and many more were on hand to present the awards and to celebrate the great Chefs, the restaurateurs and the high quality Indian restaurants that are quickly making Indian cuisine mainstream fare around the world.
The evening was taped for broadcast on the Sony TV Asia Network and started off with my opening monologue to the 650 seated guests. Next came a speech by the creator of the evening Varli Singh, who is the founder of Varli Magazine, the Varli Cook Off, and the Varli Food Festival…..all of which are not to be missed.
I carried through the first bit then handed off to my buddy Jehangir, who tossed the baton to Gaurav and then finished with Sanjeev.
At the end of the show, everyone could enjoy the meals provided by 2012 Best Restaurant Audience Award winner Bukhara Grill, Michelin starred Tulsi, and a few other choice Chefs. Cocktails were provided by Best Mixologist Award Winner Raju Somerpet.
I wish that I could give you reviews on all the food, but between the hosting and the interviews and pictures, I unfortunately was unable to really try anything.
That is where my new friend fellow co-host and 2012 Best Dessert and Pastry Chef Award winner Jehangir Mehta came in.
I was so lucky that he and his assistant, Atsuko, just happened to be going back to his restaurant Graffiti and invited me and my friend Lia Chang to join him for dinner there. WHAT A TREAT!
A big thank you to my friend, the supremely talented Lia Chang for agreeing to come as my guest but still being the photographer of all of these wonderful photos.
Other Articles on the Varli Awards:
Varli Culinary Awards
Varli Food Festival
Lassi with Lavina: Varli Culinary Awards: A Pat on the back for Indian Food
bibimagazine.com:Inaugural Varli Culinary Awards Winners!
News India Times: Chef Sanjeev Kapoor Hosts Varli Culinary Awards
The Indian Panorama: Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor Hosts First Varli Culinary Awards in NY
TheNational.com: On the spice trail: Indian food celebrated in New York
Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor Hosts 1st Annual Varli Culinary Awards with Co-hosts Manu Narayan, Jehangir Mehta & Gaurav Tandon in New York on November 15, 2012
Multimedia: Manu Narayan Dazzles as Richard Roma in La Jolla Playhouse’s Revival of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross
Voices of NY: A Celebration of Upscale Indian Food