I was born in Delhi, India and moved to Washington, DC in winter 1969 with my parents. I don’t remember much about my initial years in India except that mom and dad were always with me and there was a feeling of fun and laughter. My sister was born in winter 1970 and because we were new immigrants with little money, my baby sister became my toy. I helped mom with everything—the most fun being cooking her baby foods and feeding her.
In winter 1995, at age 30, I moved to Vancouver, BC and have since been cooking and running the kitchens and menus at Vij’s and Rangoli restaurants. (Rangoli closed after 17 wonderful years due to the stresses of the pandemic, but we were able to transfer much of the menu and many of our staff to Vij’s.)
As a chef I do a lot of research on all sorts of food issues—from personal to global health. I have forged some wonderful relationships with BC farmers, most importantly with Naty King of Hazelmere Organic Farm. Naty is the grand dame of organic farming in BC and she is also sourcing all the produce that goes into My Bambiri foods.
While Vij’s and all of our cookbooks are Indian cuisine, My Bambiri foods are international and based on a natural flow between the wisdom of my ancestry and the modern tastes with which I was raised and continue to enjoy.
I have two (now adult) daughters and while I didn’t win any prizes for potty training, bed time schedules or getting them to school on time, I was a star at cooking for them. I loved all sorts of experiments with all sorts of ingredients and I adored their reactions—even when they didn’t like what I made. As the girls got older, they started cooking with me. I managed to instill a love of all types of foods as well as an awareness of how what they eat links their own health to the health of our planet.
In addition to being a professional chef and cookbook author, I have been super involved in my community here in Vancouver. I was on the board of Vancouver Farmers Markets for 6 years and I’m currently on the board of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
For six years, I spearheaded an annual international food fair called “Joy of Feeding” held every summer at UBC Farm. Joy of Feeding features 15 home cooks of various heritages and professions showcasing their family favorite foods. My bigger vision is to have a worldwide Joy of Feeding day where various families of communities gather to share their cultures through home cooked meals, combining what they can source locally with special ingredients particular to their cuisines.
Eating for your health and for the climate.
I can’t stress enough the value of a balanced and healthy relationship to food and eating. The sooner a child develops this, the better. I read the 2019 Eat-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems and this struck me: Unhealthy diets pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than does unsafe sex, and alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined. In our household we eat meat or fish once a week, and are vegetarian/vegan the other five days. It isn’t carved in stone by any means, but we try and make this our home food flow. We never feel as if we’re on some prescribed diet. Where our food comes from, how it is grown or raised and how much of it is wasted is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases.