Top Chef Dishes Up Support for VFF


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The Vicente Ferrer Foundation USA (VFF USA) is thrilled to announce the save-the date for our annual gala, “Recipe for Empowerment” as October 6th, 2017.
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K.N. Vinod is the chef and co-owner of Indique in Washington D.C, one of 11 top-rated restaurants participating in VFF’s Recipe for Empowerment launch event on Sept. 22. For more than two decades, Chef Vinod has won accolades from Washingtonians, critics and celebrities with his modern, innovative take on Indian cuisine. We spoke with him about why he’s supporting VFF and the changing perception of Indian cuisine.
What do you know about the Vicente Ferrer Foundation and the work it does in southern India?
VFF does incredible work to fight poverty wherever it may exist, in whichever form it may take.
Why have you chosen to generously donate your time and food to help VFF's event?
I grew up in a middle class family in India and was very fortunate to get selected to study in one of the five military schools in India. My boarding and lodging was all free as my father served in the Indian army. I have always sought to help those less fortunate than myself and my family. After coming to the United States and working and opening my own restaurants, I wanted to always give back to the community, and have been working with organizations such as the DC Central Kitchen, Martha’s Table, and the World Central Kitchen. Working with an organization like VFF offers me an opportunity to support the incredible work that the organization does in India.
As a frequent traveler, what kind of inspiration do you get from meeting people of all different backgrounds and food cultures?
I love to travel. I feel that there is no end to learning while traveling. It exposes me to different lifestyles and approaches to the world. It teaches me new cultural norms. Irrespective of the number of trips that I make, I always learn something new. Travel opens my eyes to different cuisines, cultures, ingredients and styles of cooking. Travel also reminds me of the magic and power of food and community.
You have led culinary tours of south India. How would you describe the cuisines of southern India for people who may not be familiar with it?
Well, this is a loaded question. It is not easy to describe the cuisine of southern India in a few words, primarily because the cuisine is so varied from state to state. Each southern state has its own cuisine – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamilnadu. Southern India is the home of the ancient Dravidian civilization and the land of temples and where most of the spices are grown. Rice is the preferred staple compared to chapatti (bread) in the north. There is a lot of fish/seafood consumed in the coastal areas of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamilnadu. The geographical, climatic conditions, the religious beliefs all play a major role in the cuisine. 
As India assumes a larger presence on the world stage and grows into a super power of its own, do you see Americans approaching India food differently?
Yes! I came to this country in 1985 to organize the Festival of India in association with the Smithsonian Institution. I definitely feel there is much more awareness of Indian cuisine today than 30 years ago. For instance, Washington, D.C., had about five or six Indian restaurants at the time. Today, there are hundreds of them, including in the suburbs.
Indian culture has permeated American society, the festival of Diwali is celebrated in the White House, the U.S. Postal Service just released a Diwali postage stamp, etc. Gone are those days of oily, greasy, and unrefined Indian cuisine served in small mom-and-pop joints, where every other restaurant has the same menu. More and more professionals have opened Indian restaurants now and are showcasing the fine cuisine of India.