Culinary input from former student stamps Stony Brook University’s new Indian concept with authenticity - CulinArt Group

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Culinary input from former student stamps Stony Brook University’s new Indian concept with authenticity

Alumna Kenny Desai worked with the CulinArt team to fine-tune the menu at Tadka, Essence of India.

FoodService Director, Patricia Cobe  Sep. 24, 2021

Tadka, Essence of India, is one of three new concepts at Roth Food Court on the Long Island, N.Y., campus of Stony Brook University.

“Student demand for Indian cuisine has been very strong, so when we remodeled Roth Hall, Tadka was part of the plan,” says Peter Klein, CulinArt’s director of culinary development on campus. “We have a large South Asian population of students, many of whom are away from home for the first time. The recipes and ingredients had to be authentic, not fusion.”

So Klein’s team partnered with Kenny Desai, a recent Stony Brook graduate who is currently employed by the university. “She wanted to lend her voice and menu ideas to the concept,” says Klein.

Stony Brook’s finance director, Nidhi Nandwani, who is also of Indian descent, provided menu input and recipes as well. The duo addressed important elements, such as blending of spices, portion sizes and pairing of condiments with dishes.

The menu at Tadka represents the five main regions of India to highlight the diversity of the nation’s cuisine. Dishes include lamb vindaloo, chicken tikka masala, coconut curry fish, samosa chaat masala and several vegetarian options. A number of chutneys and salads are also on offer.

Everything is made from scratch, including the spice blends, dal and chutneys. The only nod to fusion are the masala fries, says Klein. “We season them with chaat masala, a lighter spice blend than garam masala, and they’ve been a big hit.”

Desai and Nandwanit taste-tested the recipes and provided feedback as the menu was developed. Their guidance helped Klein and his team nail authenticity and avoid mistakes. “We developed a spiced yogurt that I thought would work well on the samosa chaat masala, but they pointed out that the dish needs plain yogurt because the recipe already used a lot of spices,” Klein recalls.

Two items that didn’t move were the kati rolls and an Indian grilled cheese sandwich. “We may revisit these as specials, but the students gravitate toward Indian comfort food, like lamb vindaloo and chicken tikka,” says Klein. “We use about 100 pounds of lamb a day for that dish.”

Students can use their meal plans at Takda and the two other new concepts in Roth Food Court—Jet Tila’s Modern Asian Kitchen, which has a Thai-influenced menu, and Mac & Cheesyology, focusing on customizable mac and cheese bowls.

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“What a wonderful dinner we had tonight for our international families. The food was delicious and well presented as well.”

“Thank you for including me today in the food waste demonstration/[chef competition] and flattering me with the role of “judge.” I will proudly don the [Stop Food Waste Day] apron the next time I plan an “event” in our own kitchen. I think this is a very worthwhile cause and the statistics you read off are staggering. They, alone, can intimidate a home chef, let alone be the “driver’ for a professional one.”

“Thank you and your staff for all the care and thought you give CSW adults and students. You approach events with such care and elegance- I don’t know how you do it! Especially day after day. Please thank all your staff for their wonderful work and kind manner with all of us. Here is to a great year!”

“Many, and I do mean many, thanks for a great Parents Weekend.  I heard from so many happy parents and you all work very hard to make it happen.  In gratitude and kindness…”

“We are so thankful and so impressed by your immediate attention to our power outage. It was such a relief to see all the equipment and workers coming in within a few hours of the outage. Thank you for serving dinner to all [the] students in a very difficult circumstance. Please extend our thanks to your workers who braved cold weather to grill hamburgers and hotdogs.”

“With all the prep work from Winterim ramping up and classes continuing as usual, it's a busy time to be a Forman teacher. Imagine my delight, tired as I was, when I delved into the upscale-restaurant-quality chicken parmesan our dining hall served last night. Forman is all about support, and providing our students with a dinner of that quality is just as important a measure of support as anything that happens in a classroom.”

“I can’t thank your entire team enough for the outstanding service, food, displays, everything!  You are a master at detail, and because of that Adam and I were able to focus on the parents.  I know what a sacrifice pulling off a weekend like this means, we are so appreciative and grateful to you all for your talent and generosity.”

“I ALWAYS feel spoiled by the meal offerings at CSW (The Cambridge School of Weston) and am entirely grateful for it. As I eat today's delicious and lavish lunch (and think about yesterday's as well), I can't tell you how much I feel so well cared for here, both with the food and by the dining hall staff. CSW cares for us in so many ways, both big and small.”

“Thank You! Chef Budd [and team], you overcame a new online ordering system (and hundreds of labels daily!), provided creative and healthy menus, continued to connect with local farmers to incorporate locally sourced ingredients, and worked tirelessly to serve the school community on three campuses.  While it feels like you are all a little like the Wizard of Oz right now, working behind a curtain in a kitchen far away, we sense your smiles and your passion to deliver the best possible service during these trying times. We are all so grateful!”

“I will say that CulinArt has always been a very collaborative partner to T. Rowe Price, listening to our current needs and future goals and suggesting realistic and achievable strategies to meet those goals.  2020 was obviously no exception.  CulinArt also altered other areas of our OCS and pantry programs to create safer environments for all our associates. We can only thank you for your continued flexibility and innovative ideas through these difficult times.”

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