Chef Ajay Walia is committed to changing the perception of Indian food in Western culture. Through his work, he’s made people realize that South Asian food is more than just butter chicken and naan. After moving to the U.S. from New Delhi in the ‘90s, he pursued a career in finance. Working at companies like JP Morgan, Deloitte, and Oracle, he eventually decided to go after his dream of opening a restaurant.
His first restaurant, Saffron Indian Bistro, has enjoyed 20 years of success serving traditional North Indian Cuisine in San Carlos. With creative dishes like “Jafrani Malai Kofta” and classics such as “Traditional Lamb Curry”, anyone can enjoy the menu at Saffron.
Walia’s second restaurant, Rasa, in Burlingame, won a Michelin star within two years of opening. Since then, he’s transformed the location into a second branch of Saffron. Walia made certain that those who enjoyed Rasa’s signature dishes can continue to do so, keeping many of their most popular dishes on the menu even after the switch. Overall, Walia’s work has changed people’s view of Indian food. He’s continued to serve staple dishes, but has experimented with more creative items. At SALA, it will be interesting to hear about Walia’s journey from finance to food and his experience in running restaurants and getting people to try out other dishes besides butter chicken.
In keeping with the theme of the festival of inclusivity and humanity, it will be interesting to hear how Ajay Walia chose to put a dish on his menu and introduce to the public something new and different. His journey into the world of restaurants and gives South Asian cuisine the status of a Michelin star!