By GWEN OREL
When chef Floyd Cardoz did an event for International Food Day at Hillside School in 2015, he made sure every piece of broccoli was set just-so on the trays.
“There were cases and cases of broccoli,” said Dr. Natasha Mathias, a pediatric dentist at Sparkles Dentistry, who was the health and wellness liaison for the event. “He said, ‘Every piece has to be this size, on the tray with this side up,’ in a certain way. He directed the ladies on how to heat the oven.” The 500 children all got a recipe for Cardoz’s Roasted Broccoli and Lemon to take home with them.
On Tuesday, March 24, Cardoz died of coronavirus at Mountainside hospital. He was 59.
Originally from Mumbai, Cardoz rose to fame first as an executive sous-chef at Lespinasse, then as the executive chef of Tabla, both in New York. His cooking was known for its fusion of Indian and Western flavors.
“What he did was utterly novel,” Mathias said. “He trained in Switzerland. He brought Indian food with a French flare into the fine-dining arena. It was the first time anyone did that anywhere.”
The paella with chorizo and bacon he created for his restaurant Bombay Bread Bar was particularly memorable for her. “I’m crying that I can never have it again,” she said.
Cardoz participated in other events in Montclair, including the Montclair Food & Wine Festival and “A Taste of Entrepreneurship” at Montclair State University in 2018.
After Tabla closed, he won “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo in 2011 and opened a string of successful restaurants, including North End Grill and Paowalla (later named Bombay Bread Bar), both now closed. He was culinary director at Hunger Inc., the company that owns The Bombay Canteen.
He also opened two restaurants in Mumbai.
His wife, Barkha, Mathias said, always created a space and mind-set that allowed for his travel, long hours, and creativity.
Mathias, from Bangalore, India, knew Cardoz since 1995. To her, he was a man with an “impish smile” who loved the Mets. He was not a one-sport man, however; he also loved the Giants.
At the event at Hillside School, Cardoz talked to the children about baseball, and something the Mets had just done, she said. “The kids were immediately into it,” she added.
The chef had gone to Mumbai for the fifth anniversary of his flagship restaurant Bombay Canteen there, and became ill, writing about it on Instagram.
When she spoke to Montclair Local, Mathias was sorting through a meager supply of gloves and masks at her dentistry practice at the request of the department of consumer affairs, for possible future donation during the pandemic.
Cardoz, she said, had a huge impact on local chefs: They looked to him for guidance.
He leaves behind his wife, Barkha, his sons, Peter and Justin, his mother, and five siblings.
Cardoz, Mathias said, was someone who treated a person as a person, whether it was a busboy or a president. “Some people, once they become famous, forget that they are human. He never did,” she said.