For the last 10 years, Smita Chutke has been working to introduce the flavors in traditional Indian cuisine to the Buffalo region – flavors that don’t have anything to do with curry.
In early September, she got the chance to elevate her cooking to a whole other level as a guest chef at Patina 250, where she collaborated with Patina’s Executive Chef Evan Wargo and celebrity Chef Rocco DiSpirito.
The three worked to incorporate Chutke’s spice blends into a four-course meal that included bluefin tuna appetizer, lamb stew, braised short ribs and a saffron bread dessert.
“Through these dinners, I can introduce traditional Indian food in a very fine dining space where people respect it as they would respect other fine dining foods,” she said. “To do an event here, it was just an incredible opportunity.”
The program was the second in a series that launched in August that pairs local chefs with the team from Patina, Delaware North’s downtown Buffalo restaurant. Both events sold out with about 100 diners each.
Jodi Battaglia of Curate Buffalo organized the dinners with Delaware North, where she spent 10 years in development. Curate Buffalo works with six to eight chefs and helps with logistics, event planning and scheduling for private dinners and special events. The first event featured chef Lloyd Ligao of the Filipino eatery Pinoy Boi at the West Side Bazaar.
Chutke works full time at M&T Bank as a vice president and commercial real estate senior portfolio manager but she’s been sharing her Indian cooking skills for 20 years as a private chef for small group classes and dinner parties.
A native of India, she spent a decade in New York City before moving to Buffalo, initially working in research as a hospital-based biomedical engineer. She started cooking on the side after she left work to raise her children.
Chutke said she likes to help people learn to love real Indian food, versus what she calls the colonized version. She shares stories about learning to cook with her grandmothers using local and seasonal ingredients.
“Indian food is very misrepresented,” she said. “That’s how I got interested in doing this, raising awareness about what this cuisine meant for me growing up and sharing the stories. That’s changed a lot of mindsets.”
Chutke, whose father served in the Indian Air Force, grew up all over the country. Her cooking focuses on recipes from the Deccan Plateau region in the southern peninsula of India, drawing on her father’s family background in Hyderabad and her mother’s from Mumbai. Besides the spice blends, the style of cooking incorporates peanuts, poppy seeds, sesame seeds and coconut.
In 2021, she started selling Smita’s Cookery’s four spice blends online and through local retailers such as Elm Street Bakery and Moriarty Meats. Local restaurants such as Lago 210 incorporate them into their own recipes.
“A lot of chefs in the area use my spices to create something of their own,” Chutke said. “It’s very cool to see creations by other chefs.”
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