Pop-Up Chef

Ajay Dandavati

CHICAGO

About Ajay Dandavati

From a young age working at my mother's side, I gained a love for food and its ability to bring people together for a shared experience. From there, I worked in kitchens in the Denver area, eventually taking up in Edinburgh for a month long stage in a Michelin starred kitchen. This experience solidified my interest in fine dining. Both in these restaurants and in my home kitchen, I was constantly gaining a deeper respect for being able to sustain the soul as much as the stomach. Eventually, I attended university in Colorado, focusing my energies towards researching food and cooking as a high art form. This research eventually took me to dine at Alinea; what has still to date been one of the most powerful experiences I have had to date. Upon dining at the restaurant, I knew that I needed to help in bringing that experience to others. After a year and a half hiatus from the restaurant industry, I joined the teams at Alinea, Next, and the Aviary, as a culinary liaison, helping craft the experience for our guests. After a year in this environment, and a serendipitous visit from my Indian grandmother to the United States, I decided that I wanted to reconnect with my Indian heritage via the food that I make. As such, I left the restaurant group and have been exploring my Indian-ness through food, reading, and film. Each time I make one of my grandmother's dishes, I am transported back to India in a Proustian teleportation. I would like to share this experience with those around me.