We had the good fortune of connecting with Shachi Mehra and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shachi, what do you think makes you most happy? Why?
I tend to find happiness in many everyday moments. My life’s journey, to date, has led me to be grateful for and find joy in the little things, as well as those that are harder to achieve. It’s the way the sun is shining through the blinds in the morning… A new leaf or flower on my plants… A visit from a sweet hummingbird… The perfect strawberry from the farmers market… The joy on a cook’s face when they make something for the first time, and it’s delicious… The smiling faces of our team when they walk in, the sounds of laughter – knowing they appreciate the work they do, and they appreciate each other… The gratitude our guests have when they thank us… Hugs from my husband… Laughing with my friends… The wonder with which children look at the world… A glass of wine after a long, busy day… My favorite song on the radio. Anything that brings a smile to my face or makes me feel accomplished — from mastering a simple task, to making it to the top of what seemed to be an insurmountable mountain — has the power to flood my heart with joy.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
The path to becoming an entrepreneur was not straight, but every obstacle I faced, every challenge I overcame, made me into the business owner, chef, and person that I am today. I was born in India and immigrated to the U.S. as a child. I grew up in New Jersey, where I followed a path to medical school, studying pre-med and even working in a doctor’s office. I was fortunate to realize my true calling when a series of events led me to my real passion in the kitchen. As soon as I stepped into my first professional kitchen, I knew I was “home.” Hard work and determination took me to Manhattan, where I worked under late-Chef Floyd Cardoz at Tabla, one of Danny Meyer’s noted restaurants. Chef Cardoz is a legend in the industry and I am fortunate to have spent 5 years with him, before opportunity brought me west to open several restaurants, including the first U.S. location of Michelin-starred Tamarind of London. The recognition I earned as Executive Chef of Tamarind led the way to open ADYA, where I set out to present an authentic Indian experience highlighting the fresh ingredients that are abundant in Southern California. The response was phenomenal – ADYA was met with open arms, hearts, and mouths by guests and media, who credited me with bringing a new Indian experience to the region. My love for the culinary industry continues to grow as I operate 2 ADYA locations and have gained national attention for winning Food Network’s “Chopped.” This summer, I launch Spice Girl Sauces, my own line of Indian sauces intended for national distribution. You could say that I’m living proof of the American Dream… and I’m still dreaming.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Southern California has so much to offer – beaches, hiking, amazing food and drink, places to go, breweries, distilleries…. I absolutely love the beach so a visit to Thousand Steps Beach in Laguna is a must – lunch at Driftwood Kitchen in their amazing waterfront dining room. A Duffy Boat ride around the Newport Marina – we can bring a picnic and spend the day on the water! There’s amazing culture and history in Downtown Santa Ana – along with some great breweries and a stop at Blinking Owl Distillery. A memorable meal at Taco Maria in Costa Mesa is surely on the list. There’s always Disneyland as a reason to head to Anaheim, but save some time and room for all the great eats and drinks in Downtown Anaheim, Center Street, MAKE and The Packing House. (stop by Strong Water for an amazing Tiki Drink in a fantastic space). Definitely a dinner at The Ranch – save room for dessert! Try to end one of our evenings at the Segerstrom Center for Performing Arts – dinner before at the superb Knife Pleat in South Coast Plaza and a frozen G&T at Vaca. We would definitely visit Tanaka Farms or Orange Home Grown – there’s so much amazing produce here in our own backyards! and there’s nothing like fresh picked berries, greens and citrus. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people who have pushed me forward and supported me in my journey — from family and friends, to fellow chefs and food enthusiasts. But it all began with one person, who recognized my passion, before even I truly did, and gave this Indian-born Jersey girl her first line cook position in Manhattan — Chef Floyd Cardoz. He is a legend in his own right, but working under him for nearly 5 years in the heart of Manhattan was life changing. He showed me how to run a kitchen and taught me how to see food with a different perspective. Chef Cardoz taught me the importance of balance, in flavors, on a plate, in a dish, and in life. He was integral in revealing my path into hospitality and food, and for that, I will always be grateful. Through my experience with Chef Cardoz, and with other chefs on my journey, I have been able to appreciate my Indian heritage and culture, and I am grateful to be able to share it with others every day. Honestly, I would not be here today without the ‘cheerleaders’ in my life — these are the people that believe I am capable of so much more than I often think possible. My husband, Maneesh, has pushed me forward and into the spotlight, he supports me during challenges, and was my “Chopped” coach. My friend and publicist, Mona, an amazing inspiring woman, has been instrumental in making my efforts come across as effortless. And I continue to be grateful to my family, who got me to believe that we can do anything and continue to help me to dream big.
Instagram: @chefshachimehra @adyaoc