At his Manhattan restaurant, Tabla, Floyd Cardoz offered me the finest meal I’ve ever had in my life of fine meals.
Impossible to describe really, except to say no one at our table chatted while eating — not even to comment on the food. The multiple tastes did not combine so much as succeed each other, one after the other, in the mouth.
I felt myself levitating off my comfortable chair.
He came by the table — the restaurant was fairly new — and talked with us. He seemed like a lovely guy, and funny. We asked him whether he had been born knowing he’d be a great chef and he laughed. No, he said, he’d been studying biochemistry and since cooking was considered really declassé in his Goan family, when he told his father he was going to become a chef, his father nearly disowned him.
Chefs have a reputation for unpleasantness. They may be great cooks but even back then — before #MeToo overturned some famous kitchens — chefs were known to be rotten people who terrorized and harassed their staffs. When our server came back to the table, I said something about how nice Cardoz seemed, and she said, “That’s exactly what he’s like to everyone,” meaning his staff.
I bought his terrific cookbook, “One Spice, Two Spice,” and have been working my way through the extraordinary recipes. Thanks to Mr. Cardoz — and a visit to Kalustyan, “my” spice store — my collection of many Eastern spices were amplified by such items as curry leaves and black kokum (keeps well in the freezer, right next to my fresh ginger).
His death makes me so deeply sad.