Q and A with America’s Next Great Restaurant Competitor Sudhir Kandula

America’s Next Great Restaurant is a new NBC reality show that features competitors from around the country looking to launch their original ideas for a restaurant chain.

The winning competitor will land his/her branded restaurant chain in the centers of Hollywood, Minneapolis and New York City. Funding the winner will be Iron Chef Bobby Flay, Biggest Loser’s Chef Curtis Stone, co-CEO of Chipotle Steve Ells, and executive chef and restaurateur Lorena Garcia. The four investors have been working with competitors to help develop their ideas, putting them to the test along the way by challenging them in a series of rigorous cooking and business competitions.

After months of competing, it’s now down to the final three episodes, with the finale to air May 1st. Landing a spot among the last three competitors is 41-year-old Sudhir Kandula, currently Vice President, Sales, at eCert Inc, a New York-based firm that works with companies to reduce email fraud.

Kandula intends to launch Spice Coast, a modern take on Indian food that will feature a variety of healthy, light, and vegetarian options. I chatted with Kandula to ask him a little about his experience, what kinds of tasty foods we can expect on the menu, and how he make a fast-food-styled restaurant chain a healthy success.

What kind of previous culinary experience do you have?

Working backwards, I had minority investments in a couple of critically well-reviewed restaurants in New York City – Village Tart & Permanent Brunch.  [I’ve had] years of searching for and eating amazing food, from the best ethnic food carts to some of the finest Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe and America, and

4+ years of sustained exposure to some of the greatest produce in Northern California.  I went to the Cordon Bleu in 2002 when I was living in Paris, and [have experienced] 20+ years of amazing Indian food.  Mom was a fantastic cook.

So you’re certainly not new to the food scene.  What kinds of dishes will you be serving at Spice Coast?

Sample Menu:
Choose from:
Spice Coast “Taco”
Flour tortilla + choice of 1 main, 2 sauces & 1 salad/relish
Spice Coast Rice Plate
Mint-cilantro rice + choice of 2 mains, 2 sauces &1 salad/relish
Grilled Chicken
Marinated overnight in cilantro, green chili, yogurt & various Indian spices
Green Beans, lentils & coconut
Sautéed green beans w/ yellow lentils, toasted coconut & red chilies
Cool Yogurt
Greek yogurt & red-onions
Fiery Chili
Roasted Serrano chilies, cilantro & lemon juice
Mango, avocado, lemon & mint
Jicama, cilantro & citrus

What percentage of your typical menu will be vegetarian?

Depends on if I go at this alone or with the investors on the show – my preference would be to have at least half the menu to be vegetarian.

I know the judges insisted you have a few non-vegetarian options. Do you have future plans to eventually transition into a completely meat-free chain?

I may very well open a vegetarian-only option in cities I like–Austin, Portland, San Fran., etc. I think America has an unholy love affair with meat.  We consume greater than 200 pounds per person. I am an omnivore that is trying to eat less meat all the time and better meat when I do. I respect the investor’s right to insist that I add meat to the menu – you get to make requests like that when you invest.

What are some of the techniques you’ll use to transform heavy Indian dishes into light and healthy fare?

Most Americans equate all Indian food with the delicious but usually heavy Northern Indian fare offered in 95% of Indian restaurants in America. These curries tend to be on the heavier side. Southern Indian & coastal cuisine tends to be much lighter in general, with a greater emphasis on vegetables and seafood. We seldom use cream in our dishes. I take it a bit further by modernizing some of the iconic Indian dishes like Samosas. I grill them in a Panini maker instead of frying them and serve them with a bright, fresh salad of mangoes, avocados & mint.

What do you think makes your idea original and what will make it a success?

The particular kind of food from India I choose to serve will set it apart not just from all other fast casual concepts but also from the burgeoning northern Indian fast casual concepts. As a newly minted American, I want to introduce America to the dramatic diversity and flavors of my old country. I want to hold my concept in sharp contrast to the cookie-cutter fare that is masquerades as Indian food in America today.  Contrary to Bobby Flay’s comments, my experience in the software world will actually help me immensely in building a great team for my foray in to the fast-casual environment.

Is America finally ready for a healthy restaurant chain? Will your restaurant serve truly healthy food? How/will you take efforts to moderate sodium content?

I believe so.  Maybe not a massive scale like a Chipotle but its time has come. Truly healthy food? That means so many things to so many people.  My focus is on good ingredients, prepared fresh daily with a light touch and portion control. I haven’t thought specifically in terms of sodium content, only at a macro-level.

How’d you settle on the name Spice Coast?

I started with the name Tiffin Box (which I love) and was asked to change the name to make it more accessible to American markets.

What has been the best experience in participating on the show?

I really appreciated the chance to tell the story of the diversity of Indian cuisine and how it can be the next great, healthy cuisine in America—at least as much as a Reality TV show would allow. I made some incredible friends on the show as well.

So if you win, are you ready to dive head first into a life of culinary pursuits?

I am, regardless of the outcome. My vision is bigger than these fast casual restaurants. I want to influence the way America eats, for the better.

Care to share a recipe?

Green Beans, Lentils & Coconut

  • 1 lbs organic green beans – trimmed and cut on the bias into 1” pieces
  • 1/4 lb dried yellow lentils
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 5 curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 dried Indian red chilies
  • ¼ lb unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Vegetable oil
  • Fine sea salt

Soak lentils in cold water for about 2 hours – they can still have a bit a bite to them. Dry toast coconut till golden brown and let cool. Blanch the green beans in salted water and cool them in iced water – set aside. In a large skillet, heat up vegetable oil over medium heat, add chilies, mustard, curry leaves and cumin. Toast lightly and then add green beans, lentils and salt. Stir and toss till beans are cooked through. Sprinkle toasted coconut and check seasoning. Serve hot

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    Q and A with America's Next Great Restaurant Competitor Sudhir … | Today Headlines
    April 29, 2011 at 5:26 pm

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  • Reply
    The Candid RD
    April 29, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    This is awesome, I love Sudhir!! I hope he wins. I would eat at his restaurant any day of the week. And, he seems so down to Earth and friendly. Great interview!

  • Reply
    May 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    ON the contrary, this Sudhir guy thinks Indians from India are below him! He only hangs out with people born and raised in America, Indians or otherwise.

    And yet, he wants to take ownership of, and market OUR food?? To me this reads HYPOCRISY 101.

    And this comes from someone that knows.

  • Reply
    Soft Restaurant - Horeca manager
    January 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Oferim solutii software pentru industria Horeca.Soft pentru Restaurant,Bar,Fast food,Club.
    AB Soft Timsoara, HORECA MANAGER este o solutie software care permite urmarirea, controlul si reglarea activitatilor din firma dumneavoastra prin controlarea de la vanzare la materii prime in timp real.

    Softul a fost dezvoltat pentru a veni in intampinarea nevoilor aparute in desfasurarea activitatii intr-o locatie HORECA, astfel prin utilizarea monitorului cu TOUCH SCREEN de catre angajati, dumneavoastra aveti un control total asupra afacerii prin:

    -Scazamantul din stoc dupa retete sau unitar se face in momentul INCASARII MESEI !

    -Calculul in timp real al stocurilor de marfa (cantitativ si valoric)

    – Controlul vanzarilor pe ospatar in timp real (cantitativ si valoric)

    – Controlul vanzarilor totale in timp real (cantitativ si valoric)

    – Rapoarte cantitativ ? valorice ? procentuale pe grupele de produse si pe fiecare produs in parte.

    – Listare NIR la pret de achizitie sau de vanzare.

    – Fisa Magazie pe produs pe perioada.

    – Grafice vanzari pe orele zilei sau pe zilele saptamanii Sistemul software va mai ofera urmatoarele avantaje:

    Reducerea erorii umane in calculul notelor de plata si a stocurilor.

    Eliberarea automata a bonurilor fiscale (pt DATEX MP55 sau compatibile cu PC)

    Siguranta datelor ? HORECA MANAGER ofera siguranta datelor in sistem cu nivele de acces distincte pentru angajat si pt Administrator.

    Promptitudine si reactie rapida la comenzile utilizatorilor.

    Se pot utiliza un numar nelimitat de produse grupate in categorii.

    Interfata foarte prietenoasa, customizabila pt fiecare client.

    Reducerea costurilor prin o corecta gestionare a materiilor prime, avand la dispozitie rapoartele de consum pentru a putea alcatui o comanda de aprovizionare.

    Controlul angajatilor prin informatiile oferite de catre BORDEROUL DE INCASARI OSPATAR: Data si ora intrarii in tura precum si a iesirii,Numarul de comenzi servite,Valoare vanzari desfasurata pe categoriile de plata (Numerar,Card,Protocol)

    Softul functioneaza si pe varianta MONOPOST ? un singur calculator sau in varianta de RETEA.

    Cel mai importatnt avantaj este controlul de oriunde din lume cu ajutorul internetului conectandu-va si vizualizand in timp real ce se intampla la firma dumneavoastra.


    Se seteaza mesele dupa designul locatiei incat ele sa fie usor de identificat pt ospatari.

    O masa la care s-a luat comanda este colorata in rosu si are inscriptionat numele ospatarului care se ocupa de acea masa.
    Interfata de introducere a comenzii este foarte usor de utilizat.

    Doar prin apasarea zonei corespunzatoare categoriei, zona de produse se populeaza cu cele din categoria selectata.
    Se listeaza bonurile de comanda.
    Apoi se elibereaza nota de plata si bonul fiscal.

    Raportul de vanzari ne ofera informatii complexe asupra vanzarilor cantitativ ? valoric si procentual odata pe CATEGORII DE PRODUSE cat si amanuntit pe fiecare produs vandut in parte.

    -Calcul CONSUM Materii prime pentru orice perioada selectata. (se poate defalca pe modalitati de plata!) Toate Rapoartele se exporta in EXCEL Interfata de Introducere Produse Meniu foarte usor de lucrat in ea. De aici se poate introduce un produs NOU sau modifica un produs vechi

    – Schimbare PRET sau DENUMIRE. Tot de aici se si sterge un produs existent in lista meniu.
    Grafice vanzari pe orele zilei si zilele saptamanii va ofera o imagine a evolutiei in timp a firmei dvs.

    Optim pentru gestionarea angajatiilor prin suplimentarea in perioade de varf daca e necesar. Interfata de INCHIDERE ZI poate fi consultata oricand pentru a afla vanzarile in timp real, imparite pe metode de plata si fiecare pe gestiuni, precum si valoarea vanzarilor inclus MESELE NEINCASATE INCA.

  • Reply
    kandula chaitanya
    July 15, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Its really awesome that mine nd sudhirs initial wid same.. Name….hah.,.nd good answers

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