BOSTON—Chef Suvir Saran, the culinary vanguard credited with making the flavors of India accessible to American cooks and author of three cookbooks, will speak at the Museum of Fine Arts on Wednesday at this year’s Ananda Coomaraswamy Annual Lecture.
“On the 100th anniversary of the founding of the oldest museum collection of South Asian art in America at the MFA, we celebrate the legacy of the visionary scholar/curator who started it all—Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1887–1947), who brought Indian art to America, shaping decades of discourse around South Asian art and culture,” MFA said in a statement.
Saran, along with dancer and choreographer Parul Shah and musician Rajna Swaminathan, MFA will present a cultural stew of perspectives from three visionaries who bring South Asian arts to America.
The event, which is called “Indus to Mississippi: Bringing South Asian Culture to America” this year, will be held from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, at Harry and Mildred Remis Auditorium at MFA. Tickets: MFA Members $16.00; Non-members $20.00. To order tickets by phone, call 1-800-440-6975 ($6 processing fee applies); to order in person, visit any MFA ticket desk.
Born in New Delhi, Saran was drawn to the kitchen at a very early age, liking nothing better as a child than collaborating with his family’s Brahman chef; some of his favorite dishes on the menu at his restaurant Tapestry he learned from his mother and grandmother. He began studying art in Bombay, and ventured to New York in 1993 to continue at the School of Visual Arts. Eventually, he transformed his favorite pastime of cooking and entertaining his friends into a catering business, the beginnings of his remarkable, multi-pronged culinary career.
Saran is the culinary vanguard credited with making the flavors of India accessible to American cooks. Having triumphed in the New York restaurant world with Devi [the first Indian restaurant awarded a Michelin star], he penned three acclaimed cookbooks and held a five-year adjunct professorship at NYU’s Department of Nutrition & Food Studies.
He currently sits on the nutrition advisory board of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, presides as chairman of the Asian Studies Center – World Cuisine Council of the Culinary Institute of America, and practices organic/heritage breed farming in upstate New York. He is an in-demand guest speaker, educator and a frequent contributor to notable periodicals such as The Wall Street Journal. Saran has been a featured judge on the Food Network’s Iron Chef and Next Iron Chef, and achieved break-out stardom on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters by offering a healthful alternative to the requested bacon cheeseburger.
Renowned for his accessible approach to Indian flavors and techniques, his cookbooks—Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes [Clarkson Potter, 2004], American Masala: 125 New Classics from My Home Kitchen [Clarkson Potter, 2007] and Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country [Chronicle Books, 2011]—have gone on to reap critical acclaim. Masala Farm was a James Beard Award finalist for Best American Cookbook and the book, along with his other two, have garnered features and Top 10 rankings in publications such as The New York Times, Bon Appétit, The Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Fine Cooking, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle, USA Today, and many others.
“American Masala” is the name of his farm, his second cookbook, and his culinary philosophy, which embraces the best in Indian and American cooking. At Tapestry, he expands this concept to include the many cultures whose cuisines inspire and delight him. When he is not traveling, Saran enjoys working on his 68-acre American Masala Farm in upstate New York.
The Parul Shah Dance Company is a New York-based North Indian classical and contemporary dance collective.
Shah’s work builds on the dance form’s mythological storytelling roots to explore universal narratives, using a rich movement vocabulary that communicates the dynamic and often paradoxical nature of modern life. While preserving the emotive quality unique to Indian classical dance, Shah tells her own stories that foster understanding, empathy, and relationships between audience and performer.
Swaminathan is an accomplished mrudangam (South Indian percussion) artist, a protégé of mrudangam maestro Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman. Swaminathan is one of only a handful of women who play the mrudangam professionally. She has performed with several renowned Indian classical musicians, most notably mentor and vocalist T.M. Krishna. She has performed in several prestigious venues and festivals, including the Smithsonian (D.C.), Kennedy Center (D.C.), Asia Society (NYC), Lincoln Center (NYC), Walker Art Center (MN), Music Academy (Chennai), Shanmukhananda Hall (Mumbai) and The Esplanade (Singapore).
Swaminathan also regularly gives workshops on the South Indian rhythmic perspective, most notably at the Banff International Jazz and Creative Music Workshop, the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, and the KOSA International Percussion Camp. Rajna holds degrees in Anthropology and French from the University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently pursuing a PhD in cross-disciplinary music studies at Harvard University.
Since 2011, she has been studying and collaborating with eminent musicians in New York’s jazz and creative music scene, including Vijay Iyer, Steve Coleman, Miles Okazaki, and Amir ElSaffar. Culling from her experience incorporating experimental and polyrhythmic methods from creative music into her artistic practice, Rajna formed the ensemble RAJAS, which collectively explores new textural and improvisational horizons at the nexus of multiple musical perspectives. The ensemble has performed at prominent venues such as the Lincoln Center Atrium, The Jazz Gallery, The Met Breuer, and Alwan for the Arts. The various configurations of the RAJAS frequently feature the following artists: Miles Okazaki, Stephan Crump, Anjna Swaminathan, Maria Grand, Amir ElSaffar, Aakash Mittal, Rafiq Bhatia, Arun Ramamurthy, Ganavya Doraiswamy, Guy Mintus, and Roopa Mahadevan.