I am a creator of Indian cuisine, an instructor and an entrepreneur. Born and raised in Mumbai, India, I now live in Washington, DC.
When I was 19 years old, I told my college friends that one day I would move to the United States and open a business there. At that age, I had never been to the United States, but it was always sold to us as the land of opportunity where one can truly reach one’s potential. I did not know what all of this meant then, but somehow, my subconscious registered it, and things started progressing in that direction. As I write this, I have now taught 25,000 people across the United States and Europe. I have also written three cookbooks on Indian cuisine and launched my line of incredibly delicious Indian simmer sauces.
In the year 2000, I moved to the United States. In my bag was my most valuable possession: my mom’s cookbook that she wrote for me so that I could create homemade meals for myself. I started teaching Indian cooking in the year 2004. To be honest, I started teaching because I had student loans and I did not know how else to make extra money. I only knew how to cook Indian food. Sometimes, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. I put advertisements on Craigslist and went to people’s homes. Sometimes, I sat on a bus for 12 hours from Syracuse to Boston and back the same day, just to teach a 3-hour cooking class. Those were the days!
By 2006, I had moved to the Washington, D.C. area and I learned that Whole Foods was looking for an international instructor as a guest chef. I applied, and from 2006-2014, I taught Indian cooking at various Whole Foods locations in Washington, D.C. Suddenly, I was playing with the best ingredients in the U.S. and sharing my culture and my cuisine with the community around me.
In 2008, Culinaerie, the premier cooking school in D.C., saw me teaching at Whole Foods and asked me to teach at their school. Ten years later, my journey with them is still continuing.
In 2016, Audrey Claire’s Cook, a premier cooking school in Philadelphia, PA and the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City hired me to teach Indian cooking at their respective institutions. Hence, I became a bonafide traveling chef, now regularly visiting several cities to teach Indian cooking. And in between, I have been privileged to teach Indian cooking at several locations in Europe as well.
In 2013, I wrote my first cookbook, Indian Cooking From My Mom, which was a literal English translation of my mom’s cookbook that she wrote for me when I moved to the United States. She and I are perhaps the only ones who have read this book in its entirety. This is a very special book to me as it contains intimate photographs from my childhood and my family’s life, including my mom’s wedding pictures and, of course, the recipes that I grew up with. Later in 2014, I wrote my next cookbook, Popular Restaurant Dishes, to make classic Indian dishes accessible to anyone. In 2015, I wrote my vegetarian cookbook, Ayurveda Cookbook: Eating for Mind, Body, and Consciousness, based on the ancient traditional Indian science of life - including food - known as Ayurveda.
During my endeavor to make Indian cuisine simpler and more accessible, in 2018, I launched my latest creation of Indian simmer sauces, which have been an instant hit that I am so very proud of. These delicious sauces are based on traditional recipes and authentic flavors. The team of people that I get to work with and the responses I have received for my creations has given me more strength to create. I’m honored by the love and respect that I’ve received in this land of plenty, which is now my adopted home. And for as long as I live, I will keep creating and contributing my culture and cuisine to the amazing place that we call the United States.
- Rupen Rao