This Hyderabad-born chef cooked for Kamala Harris’ Bakrid party

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Hyderabad-born Chef Asif Rasheed Syed, now settled in Naples, Florida, recently cooked a typical Hyderabadi meal for the US vice president Kamala Harris’ Bakrid party.

Chef Asif who owns the popular 21 Spices by Chef Asif, a modern Indian restaurant, says he was not only honoured but also surprised to be requisitioned by Kamala’s office to cater the dinner for 130 dignitaries at her official residence in Washington DC.

For the dinner menu, Asif selected Hyderabadi specialities such as city’s popular patti samosas (a crispy samosa that is also known as Irani samosa, served with Irani chai at Irani cafes in Hyderabad), grilled chaap (marinated grilled lamb chops cooked on a pan) and pathar ka gosht (hammered meat cooked on a stone top grill). Desserts included double ka meetha, a deep fried bread pudding, sheer korma (hand tossed fine vermicelli that is roasted in ghee and sevred with sweetened milk and nuts), qubani ka meetha, a Hyderabadi traditional apricot dessertand gil-e-firdaus, a kheer preparation made with rice and bottle gourd. 

Patti samosa made to look like money bags

Speaking over the phone from Naples, Chef Asif says, “I was born and brought up in Hyderabad and take great pride in our traditional food. I am always my lookout to see how I can put food from my city on the global food map. Since I was doing a Hyderabadi menu for the sit-down Bakrid dinner, I picked dishes that are different from the regular kebabs and starters. The brief was to put out easy-to-eat options and avoid messy, gravy dishes.” 

Highlights
  • Shikampuri kebab is another Hyderabadi speciality dish. It is served with paratha
  • Hyderabadi haleem is a very popular dish which is made during the holy month of Ramzan
  • Shaadiyon wala red chicken is a dish that is made specially at weddings in Hyderabad

Chef Asif also wanted the presentation to stand out. Hence his patti samosas were made to look like little potlis, the pathar ka gosht was made with wagyu beef and for the chaap he used New Zealand lamb. 

21 Spices by Chef Asif, Maples Florida

Chef Asif R. Syed is from Hyderabad

The restaurant that celebrates Indian food and presents it in a modern way
Popular for the wide variety of biryanis and curries
The signature dessert at the eatery is the Saffron-ginger ice cream. 

Asif’s graduated in Hotel Management from Anwar Ul Uloom College in Hyderabad, then he went to Cyprus to pursue an advanced course in culinary techniques . “Soon after that, in 1999, I went to the US for a management program at Marriott Corporation; it was an 18 months uninterrupted internship program. After the internship I joined the the Marriott Corporation for two years,” he says.  

Chef Asif (in white) with another chef at the dinner

Chef Asif (in white) with another chef at the dinner

From Marriott, he moved to the Hilton as a sous chef and went on to become the executive chef.He worked with the Hilton for a total of 15 years. The chef became a popular public figure when began to participate in cookery shows. “I was in Guy’s Grocery Games, Cutthroat Kitchen with Alton Thomas in 2016 and Beat Bobby Flay in Season 17.”

On Beat Bobby Flay, he was celebrated for actually beating American celebrity chef, restaurateur, and reality television personality Bobby Flay in a culinary showdown, with his signature dish of Tandoori chicken. In 2019, he says he hit a high point in his career when he successfully conducted a dinner, featuring innovative Indian cuisine, at the James Beard House. (James Beard was an influential American chef, who pioneered television cooking shows.)

As a proud Hyderabadi Chef Asif says “the joy with which the dignitaries enjoyed the dishes and asked me details about the method of preparation made me the happiest. Kamala said she was delighted to taste the Hyderabadi dishes and that I must cook for her again.”

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