Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots in Tempe: "I Wanted to Work for a Transparent Company"
Lauren Saria Sasha Raj
If you could travel any where in the world tomorrow, where would you go and what would you eat? Sampige Road in Bangalore, India. It's the perfect culinary mecca of north and south Indian street food (pain puri, paav bhaji, idllis, dosa, flavored almond milks, fresh tender coconut water and more....aaaah drool), plus fresh fruit vendors (my favs are custard apple, jack fruit, mangoes, and sapota) on every street corner! My family has a home on this street -- lucky for my taste buds, unlucky for my waistline.
The best thing you've ever eaten: The gnocchi at Portobello Vegan Trattoria in Portland, Oregon. Light-as-a-cloud pillows of goodness.
If you got one "cheat day," what would you eat?: Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups, Sweet Republic's mango margarita sorbet, fried pickles at Short Leash Dogs, the spicy edamame at Four Peaks and the fried jalapeños at San Tan Brewery. (They are on the menu as an add on to a burger but if you ask really, really nicely they'll bring you a little cup -- and, trust me, it's worth asking for really really nicely).
Your favorite childhood food memory: My father would make dinner on occasion and would fill the dining table with all manner of steamed vegetables and then commission my sister and I to make (i.e. mix) a dip of homemade yogurt, lemon, asafoetida, and chili powder that we would eat with the veggies. It's was a simple meal, but in my child's eye it was a like Thanksgiving every time.
One song to describe 24 Carrots: Is there a song about vegans getting enough protein? That one, I choose that one.
The most under-appreciated ingredient: Acids -- vinegar and citrus.
The most overrated ingredient: Bacon. There, I said it.
Your personal mantra: "A mind, stretched by a new idea, can never regain its original dimensions," from Oliver Wendell Holmes.
It's exactly how I felt about starting 24C. Once the seed was planted in my mind, I could never go back to imagining life otherwise and so I put all of my energy into making it happen. This used to be a quote on the wall at our original space and it embraces exactly how I choose to approach the world, expand your mind to include as much life as it can manage, you'll be happier for it.
Your culinary mentor and one important lesson he/she taught you: My mother, Kala. She's an incredible cook and even more so because she never tastes her food as she's cooking it. She's a master at traditional recipes but never hesitates to try something new or update a dish with a new twist or flavor. For what it's worth, my grandmother is exactly the same, so fingers crossed that this trait's genetic! The most important lesson? How to salt a dish by scent alone. Yup, this motherly badass of mine salts by smell, and it's perfect every time.
Favorite dish on the menu and why: Our roasted butternut squash and green chile mac and cheese. We update a new menu weekly to adapt to the goodies our suppliers and farmers have available, but whenever I see butternut on their lists I can't help but pop this on to the menu. It's a gluten-free pasta with a creamy cashew and coconut sauce cooked down with roasted butternut squash and spicy chiles. When I went vegan from vegetarian, I thought giving up cheese would be really hard -- with this dish I don't miss cheese at all.
Check out our past Chef and Tell interviews with:
Nick LaRosa - Nook
Joey Maggiore - Cuttlefish
Country Velador - Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
James Porter - Petite Maison
Cullen Campbell - Crudo
Mel Mecinas - Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North
Meagan Micozzi - Scarletta Bakes
Tyson Holzheimer and Joe Strelnik - Snooze, an A.M. Eatery
Paul McCabe - T. Cook's at the Royal Palms
Eugenia Theodosopoulos - Essence Bakery Cafe
Eddie Hantas - Hummus Xpress
Jay Bogsinke - St. Francis
Dustin Christofolo - Quiessence
Blaise and DJ Aki - The Sushi Room
Sacha Levine - Rancho Pinot and FnB
Andrew Nienke - Cafe Monarch
Kevin Lentz - French Grocery
Aurore de Beauduy - Vogue Bistro
Justin Olsen - Bink's Midtown
Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz - Republica Empanada
Brian Peterson - Cork
Brian Webb - Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food
Lester Gonzalez - Cowboy Ciao
Renetto-Mario Etsitty - Tertio
German Sega - Roka Akor
Marco Bianco - Pizzeria Bianco
Brad and Kat Moore - Short Leash Hot Dogs and Sit...Stay