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Sundial: How this Indian chef is expanding the meaning of American cuisine

Pushkar Marathe Ela.jpg
Libby Volgyes
Courtesy of Pushkar Marathe
Chef Pushkar Marathe has been nominated for a James Beard award for best chef in the South. His cuisine is rooted in the flavors of his homeland of India. It’s also inspired by his travels from the Caribbean to Europe to the Middle East.

Long before he opened a restaurant, Pushkar Marathe thought he might be a doctor.

It was in his home, cooking in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother — that he found his real calling. And now he’s been called one of the best chefs in the country.

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It took him a while to get there. His father was a mechanic with the Indian Air Force and moved his family from base to base. Those travels taught him the flavors beyond his home.

It led him to cooking school in Europe. To professional kitchens from Los Angeles to Miami. He combined those lessons with what he learned in his grandmother’s kitchen.

Marathe learned to cook everything. And that love of flavors shows up in the dishes at his two Palm Beach County restaurants, Stage and Ela. Now he’s been nominated as one the best chefs in the South for a James Beard Award — they call it the Oscars of the food world.

Marathe wanted a restaurant that was truly American — that embraced a variety of flavors and cultures.

On the Feb. 6 episode of Sundial, he joined us to talk about his travels and how they have influenced his career and cooking.

This is one of a series of conversations we're having with local chefs and people in the food industry.

On Sundial's previous episode, we spoke with Miami-based author Patricia Engel, who has a new story collection out called "The Faraway World." We talked about how the stories she wrote over the course of a decade are connected by themes of desire, sacrifice and moral compromise.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Stay in touch with us via text by joining our Sundial text club. Send us your thoughts, ideas or questions by texting the word “join” to 786-677-0767. You can also email us at sundial@wlrnnews.org.

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Carlos Frías is the host of WLRN's Sundial. He is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the lead producer behind WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is an associate producer for Sundial.