Floyd Cardoz's Tragic 2020 Death

Floyd Cardoz was a force in shifting the American culinary scene, with the New York Times calling him "the first chef born and raised in India to lead an influential New York City kitchen." Cardoz expanded what fine dining in the U.S. could be and helped elevate the reputation of his homeland's cuisine in American eyes. When he opened and led Tabla in 1998, Cardoz made a name for himself in the industry. Tabla became a cult classic at a time when there were few other high-end Indian restaurants on the American scene, per Eater New York.

It was a long road to Tabla. Cardoz was born and raised in Mumbai. His family also had Portuguese heritage, further expanding his background. He originally studied biochemistry before moving to Switzerland to learn about European cuisine. According to CNN Travel, Cardoz embraced this change after reading a book that made him realize how much he loved food. When he tried cooking, it turned out he was a natural, and after finishing his unconventional education, Cardoz moved to New York.

Despite its great reputation, Tabla closed in 2010. One year later, Cardoz would win the reality TV cooking show "Top Chef Masters" and did so with an Indian dish. Over the next decade, he would lead kitchens at North End Grill, Paowalla, and White Street — various other Manhattan restaurants. He also opened Bombay Canteen and O Pedro in Mumbai.

Death and condolences

Cardoz died at 59 years old due to Covid-related complications, as reported by Eater New York. According to CNN Travel, he had been in India shortly beforehand, taking part in the filming of Netflix's "Ugly Delicious," a cooking and travel show. Upon returning, the chef developed a fever and went to the hospital — Mountainside Medical Center in New Jersey — on March 17, 2020. A day later, he tested positive for the coronavirus. Tragically, one week afterward, on March 25, 2020, Cardoz passed away.

Madhur Jaffrey, writer and celebrity chef, said, "He had such ambitions. He was an innovator. He was all set to do so much more. To be struck down like this in the midst of a brilliant career is heartbreaking." The executive chef of New York's Gramercy Tavern, Michael Anthony, lamented, "With his passing the restaurant industry has suffered a great loss," and referred to Cardoz as "a constant source of knowledge and inspiration" (via CNN).

Meanwhile, on Instagram, restauranteur David Chang posted, "Heartbroken over the loss of Floyd Cardoz to COVID-19. Rest in peace Floyd... We will carry on your beautiful legacy."

It's clear to see that Cardoz is hugely missed by the culinary community. Cardoz's business partner, Danny Meyer, underlined this: "He never once lost his sense of love for those he'd worked with, mentored and mattered to" (New York Times).

Cardoz's Legacy

Today, The Bombay Canteen and O Pedro are open for those who want to experience cuisine directly influenced by Cardoz. If you aren't in Mumbai, consider reading Cardoz's books. Per CNN Travel, Cardoz penned two cookbooks — "One Spice, Two Spice: American Food: Indian Flavors" (2006) and "Flavorwalla: Big Flavor. Bold Spices. A New Way to Cook the Foods You Love" (2016).

Beyond the kitchen, Cardoz was an advocate for education. With the funds he earned from his victory on Top Chef Masters, he helped create the Young Scientist Foundation, an organization dedicated to connecting young people to research and mentorship opportunities in science.

Above all, he impacted those he knew and worked with. Chef Quincy Gardner, who worked with Cardoz at the North End Grill, said, "While working with Floyd I saw how fulfilled he was making Indian food. It inspired me to explore my roots as an African American." Another former chef at Tabla, Jae Lee, said, "I cook Korean American food and stuck to flavors that speak of my upbringing in many ways Chef Floyd did. He really did inspire me" (via Floyd Cardoz).

A note on Cardoz's phone read, "The two most important things in a person's life are the legacy we leave and the impact we make on others" (Floyd Cardoz). He lived by these words, and his impact is felt in the way he shook the culinary industry and inspired others to do the same.