On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Pondicheri chef-owner Anita Jaisinghani joins CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss her career. The conversation begins with Jaisinghani describing how her interest in cooking led her to spending two years working at Cafe Annie.
From there, she opened Indika, her white table cloth restaurant that introduced Houstonians to goat brain masala (among other dishes). She opened Pondicheri as a more casual, affordable offshoot. The restaurant has been both a commercial and critical success, with the chef being one of five finalists for this year's James Beard Award in the Best Chef: Texas category. Jaisinghani tells Sandler that winning would be great, but she still has things she wants to accomplish in her career.
"I want to make masalas a household word, whether I show people how to make them, I sell them, publish recipes about them," Jaisinghani says. "I do my recipe column in the [Houston] Chronicle every week. I try to keep that mostly vegetarian, and people are really responding to that."
Jaisinghani touches on a number of other topics, including her push to get people to eat less meat and the steps she's taking to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Listen towards the end to hear the accidental story behind the creation of Pondicheri's signature chocolate chili cookie.
Prior to the interview, beverage consultant Linda Salinas joined Sandler to discuss the news of the week. Their topics includes the winners of the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, the plans by the owners of Monkey's Tail to open a new bar in Garden Oaks, and Kenny & Ziggy's relocating to a new, larger space.
In the restaurants of the week segment, the describe their recents Houston Restaurant Weeks meals at B.B. Lemon and Woodshed Smokehouse. Salinas, who has created cocktail programs for a number of top bars and restaurants, also praises the drinks at Indian fine dining restaurant Musaafer.