Q&A with Asha Gomez of Spice Route Supper Club

ATL Food Chatter: January 24, 2011
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Last October, Asha Gomez began dazzling intimate groups with her culinary skills at a series of gatherings dubbed Spice Route Supper Club, featuring the unique cuisine of her native state in India, Kerala. The Spice Route Supper Club experience is part of the expanding supper club movement here in Atlanta that allows chefs to do some creative cooking outside the constraints of a restaurant setting. Ms. Gomez, who recently filmed a short video about the supper club, shared the origins of her concept and some her plans for its growth and development:

Q: Where did the idea for Spice Route Supper Club originate?

AG: I was in the spa industry for twenty years, here and in New York. At the Neem Tree Spa, which I ran on Atlanta’s Westside, I would frequently cook meals for clients after their ayurvedic treatments. Some eventually came just for the food! After the spa closed [at the end of 2008], I found what I missed most was sharing the dishes I grew up cooking. The supper club seemed a personalized way for me to begin sharing these foods with a wider audience. Cooking for a crowd comes easy to me. I grew up in a communal home in Kerala, where I learned from my mother and her three sisters. And then my mother and I moved to New York when I was 16. She ran a catering company, offering traditional Kerala foods, and I cooked alongside her.
Q: What exactly defines Kerala cuisine?
AG: Kerala sits on the southwestern most tip of India, surrounded by oceans. It has been a major port along the Asian-European-African spice routes for centuries, and many diverse cultural influences—Dutch, Portuguese, French, British, Arab—have been absorbed into the culture. So we have a strong Christian community (which eats beef and pork), Jewish, and Muslim cultures there, as well as the traditionally vegetarian Hindu community. Many of our dishes are rich with coconut milk, we make breads out of the abundant rice crops, and of course we have a wealth of seafood dishes—including smoky, sweet, and sour variations on fish curries. Much of our food is fragrant with curry leaves, mustard seeds, ginger, garlic, and chiles.

Q: What’s next for the supper club?

AG: We’re partnering with Dinner Party Atlanta to hold an event we’re calling “An Evening In Kerala,” featuring a twenty-one-course vegetarian feast along with traditional music and dancing on February 18. You eat this meal with your hands, and the food is very sensuous—perfect for a fun (only slightly belated) Valentine’s outing. Beyond that, I’ll continue to dream up menus from Kerala that I remember and also research.

Q: What Atlanta Indian restaurants do you like?

AG: For Northern Indian cuisine, I love Chat Patti on North Druid Hills, and for Southern Indian cuisine, I love Saravana Bhavan on Lawrenceville Highway.
Photo Credit: Bhavini Patel
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