Udayavni Special

From starting out a hotel school in Manipal to owning restaurants around the world, this Udupi-born chef’s story


Team Udayavani, Apr 25, 2021, 11:48 AM IST

Source: Wikipedia

Chef Hari Nayak, born in Udupi in Karnataka who is currently the man behind Priyanka Chopra’s New York restaurant, moved to New York 27 years ago to become a pastry chef.

Working for years with some of New York’s best chefs, Nayak soon realized that he was chasing a cuisine that wasn’t his and later decided to channel his energy into flaunting his home food.

Hari Nayak has authored seven cookbooks and has opened Indian restaurants around the world, right from JHOL in Bangkok to Alchemy in Bengaluru to Bombay Bungalow in Dubai.

Sona, Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ new restaurant opened its doors after being in the works for five years.

Talking about the concept behind Sona, Chef Nayak says, while there are great restaurants in New York City, Sona offers an experience of an Indian restaurant with a New York state of mind. The dishes here are a unique blend of traditional flavors with the highest quality of local, seasonal ingredients.

Also, the food at Sona is intended to beat the American misconception that Indian food is heavy, hence the food here will be very light in approach.

As the chef hails from South India, the food will have more coastal flavors and influences to it -from Goa, Kerala, or Mangalore. Also important to note that the restaurant also serves classics such as butter chicken and roomali roti, dishes with twists are also on the menu such as dosa with gruyere cheese, roasted garlic butter oysters, buckwheat bhel, banana- wrapped halibut, and Malvani prawns.

On the inception of this restaurant idea, Nayak claims that in 2015 Maneesh Goyal came up with the idea to create a restaurant like no other in New York, and later Priyanka Chopra came on board.

Sona aims at creating a platform to showcase India at a different level and as there is no better brand ambassador for India than Priyanka Chopra in the western world, Chef Nayak says that it was great to have someone like her be part of the project.

Nayak who initially wanted to be a pastry chef realized that he missed Indian food. Following his realization that he was chasing a cuisine that wasn’t ours, he traveled back to India and was encouraged to showcase Indian food to the world. At 27, he even wrote a book with Chef Vikas Khanna.

Chef Nayak has come a long way from starting out a hotel school in Manipal to owning restaurants around the world to writing cookbooks. He says that he has learnt from every place person he has worked with and every place he has been to. According to him, learning to have an open mind is his biggest takeaway.

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