Anita Jaisinghani Professes Passion for Vegetables
Big Apple, Big Veggies
Through the years, Anita Jaisinghani has allowed her restaurants’ bold, authentic Indian cuisine to speak for her. She has resisting temptation to assert her culinary views and dietary preferences throughout the media. However, as her confidence and character have grown along with her well-reviewed restaurants Indika, Pondicheri and Pondicheri Bake Lab + Shop, Jaisinghani has begun encouraging her diners to reconsider the meat-to-vegetable ratio of their dinner plates.
“I’m not taking meat completely off the plate, but I’ve definitely been pushing it off the center and allowing other foods to step into the spotlight,” Jaisinghani says. With the opening of a second Pondicheri location in New York City and an enticing series of pop-up dinners in the Bake Lab + Shop under way, Jaisinghani has embraced her infectious passion for vegetables in comparison to heartier, heavier proteins like lamb and beef.
“When I was starting out, I was afraid to say that that was my intention because I didn’t want to be seen as this chef who was on a singular path, like healthy cooking or vegetarian cooking. A lot of chefs in the industry are scared to be labeled, and I was one of them.” Now, she says, “I’m at the point where I’ve become confident in knowing who I am and what I want to eat.”
Because Jaisinghani’s restaurants require a host of aromatic spices and numerous consistent provisions, sourcing from small and sometimes- unpredictable Texas farms is a tricky feat. And yet, she says her dining destinations strive to source within reason from neighboring farms, relying on services like Farm to Table and purchasing eggs from Renaissance Chicken in Sealy, cheese from Houston Dairymaids and sprouts from Oak Hollow Farm in Huntsville, among other trusted purveyors.
Even in Jaisinghani’s home kitchen farm-raised Texas eggs have become a staple. “Eggs are something we can all agree on, and with a picky eater in my home, I’ve been using them more lately,” she says.
Jaisinghani’s downplaying of meat is not only a personal choice, it is also a conscious practice of Ayurveda, an Indian medicinal tradition that honors the mind, body and spirit connection. “Our cravings and the foods we eat are an expression of our emotions,” she says. “How we eat is tied to what’s going on in our lives, in our minds and in our bodies. Once you understand that, it becomes easier to digest your emotions and the foods you eat.”
These days, Jaisinghani splits her weeks between Houston and New York City, managing the ins and outs of demanding restaurants, mentoring burgeoning, diverse kitchen staffs and transitioning from one intensive task to another. Through it all, though, one thing remains consistent: Jaisinghani accepts each challenge as it comes.
“I don’t wake up and worry about what I have to do next week,” she says. “There’s no magic bullet to managing my life. l just process everything as it comes and try to find my balance.”