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What Chef Chintan Pandya Can’t Live Without

Photo: Noah Fecks

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. And in celebration of New York Taste, we’re going to be asking some of the 40-plus chefs and mixologists whose food and drinks will be served on October 21 about the things they can’t live without. (You can learn more about New York Taste and buy tickets here.) Next up is Chintan Pandya, executive chef of Adda Indian Canteen and Rahi, on his must-have backpack, protein bars, and kitchen tweezers.

I like the convenience of these. Whenever I get a call, I don’t need to hold my phone in my hand, I just put on my headphones. In the morning, because we have multiple things happening [at the restaurants], we have to be on calls about different projects, so that’s where they help a lot. For me, they’re a lifeline.

I have a lot of ideas that I keep updated on my laptop. Once I had a laptop that crashed, and [I lost] everything. Since then, I’m very careful about keeping a backup on my hard drive. I always have this in my bag. Every time I come up with something new like a recipe, or take a picture of something that I like, I put a copy of it on my hard drive. I keep different folders on it with everything work-related.

It’s hard for me to eat super-healthy because of my long work hours, but I try to avoid eating late at night. Still, I work late every night, so I always keep these protein bars in my bag. This one is low in sugar, but I also just like the taste of it. If I get hungry at night before getting back home I grab one. It just soothes me.

I’ve had this backpack from Outdoor Products for a while, and I just replaced it with a new one. If I’m traveling and I don’t want to check a bag, I can pack at least two or three days’ worth of clothes in it. On a daily basis, my hard drive, paperwork, laptop, water bottle, and protein bars are all in there.

I have multiple loafers, but I find the Alfani ones very comfortable. I literally have four or five colors right now. If I go [to Macy’s] and see a new color, I buy it. I don’t wear them at work, where I have to wear kitchen shoes, but if I have to go out and attend an event I’ll wear them. Because I only wear them once or twice a week they end up lasting a long time.

In the kitchen, I wear Crocs. We have two restaurants right now and I keep a set of Crocs in each one. I’ll wear my regular shoes to the restaurant, then change into a pair of these. They’re very light and easy to wear, and you can clean them easily. I’ve spoiled a lot of other shoes when I’ve forgotten to change into my Crocs, and once you stain a pair of shoes they’re done. The beauty of the Crocs is you can clean them as many times as you want. I just bought a white pair but I realized within a week that they get dirty very quickly, so I prefer the black ones.

I love cheese. I always keep a variety of cheese stocked in my fridge at home. There’s one specific Indian cheese known as Amul that I always have in both my restaurants. Growing up in India, we didn’t have the luxury of having multiple cheeses the way we do in America. We only had Amul. It’s a hard cheese. A lot of people try to compare it with cheddar, but I think it’s better than cheddar.

I drink a protein shake every morning, so I need a NutriBullet. I use it every day. I’ll do a protein powder with water and some fresh berries, and just blend it and drink it. I’ve never tried another blender — it’s more of a convenience than anything else.

The first thing I do every single morning is drink hot water. I keep a small water heater in my bedroom and also one in my kitchen, so wherever I am — upstairs or down — it’s easy and convenient for me.

I usually have eggs for breakfast three or four times a week, and I’ll make them with this nonstick pan at home. Otherwise, I don’t cook at home because my wife doesn’t allow me. My wife and my mother both don’t let me cook at home because they feel like I always create a mess. Once in a while if my wife needs some help, I’ll help her out, but otherwise the only thing I cook at home is breakfast. And that’s because my wife leaves for work before I do, so I have to make my breakfast on my own. She’s very passionate about cooking.

In my restaurants, we use the KitchenAid for different purposes. Obviously, we use it in the pastry department. We also have the roller attachment — it’s called the pasta-roller attachment, but we use it for our kind of cuisine, too, for something we want to roll out evenly like the skins for samosas or the dough for crispy chaats.

Another important thing in the kitchen is tweezers. They’re used to pick up things and plate them. Every chef in the city uses tweezers. It’s become a very integral part of everybody’s collection. If you’re plating meat or garnishes, you’ll use them. Nowadays we have micro garnishes — small, dainty ones — so instead of using your hands, you use the tweezers.

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What Chef Chintan Pandya Can’t Live Without