Floyd Cardoz, an influential India-born chef and restaurateur widely credited for introducing the flavors of his homeland to New York’s fine-dining scene in the 1990s, died Wednesday from an infection related to covid-19, according to the company that oversees his restaurants. He was 59.
The company, Hunger Inc. Hospitality, issued a statement confirming his death. The statement said he died in New Jersey.
A multiple James Beard Award nominee, Cardoz went to culinary school in Mumbai before studying at the respected Global Hospitality Management School at Les Roches in Switzerland. He moved to New York in 1988 and, several years later, started working at Lespinasse, where the late Gray Kunz blended Asian ingredients with French techniques.
Cardoz left Lespinasse to join forces with restaurateur Danny Meyer to open Tabla, a pioneering Indian-American fine-dining destination in Manhattan. It received three stars from Ruth Reichl when she was restaurant critic for the New York Times.
“Mr. Cardoz is working with a palette similar to that employed by Mr. Kunz, but here it is not tempered by the cream and butter of the French kitchen,” Reichl wrote in her review. “This is American food, viewed through a kaleidoscope of Indian spices. The flavors are so powerful, original and unexpected that they evoke intense emotions. Those who do not like Tabla tend to dislike it with a passion.”
Cardoz would earn four Beard nominations for his work at Tabla, which closed in 2010 after a 12-year run. It was the first restaurant that Meyer closed. Cardoz also won Season 3 of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.”
“Few people have done more than Floyd to impact an entire industry, the career trajectories of more cooks, or the palates of more restaurant goers,” Meyer wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday.
“He was beyond talented as a cook. He was a super-taster, big-hearted, stubborn as the day is long, and the most loyal friend, husband, and dad you could imagine,” Meyer continued. “My heart is just broken. His life and career was full of triumph and adversity. We opened and closed two restaurants together and in that time he never once lost his sense of love for those he’d worked with, mentored, and mattered to. He made monumental contributions to our industry and to my organization, and his passing leaves us with a gaping hole.”
Meyer and Cardoz would team up again to open the North End Grill in the Battery Park City neighborhood of New York. The restaurant was something of a free-association concept, wrote critic Pete Wells in his two-star review in the Times, offering grilled seafood, egg dishes and pours from a large single-malt Scotch collection.
Cardoz would go on to open several of his own restaurants, both in New York and Mumbai. In New York, he opened Paowalla in the SoHo neighborhood in 2016 before transforming it, two years later, into the more casual Bombay Bread Bar, which closed last year. In Mumbai, Cardoz operated a pair of restaurants, O Pedro, his ode to Goan food and culture, and Bombay Canteen, his take on Indian regional cooking.
The chef had recently returned from India, where, among other things, he filmed an episode (“Don’t Call It Curry”) for Season 2 of David Chang’s Netflix series, “Ugly Delicious.” Cardoz checked himself into a New York hospital in March, which set off a panic among his friends and fans. He would later, in an Instagram post, apologize for alarming everyone.
“Sincere apologies everyone,” he wrote. “I am sorry for causing undue panic around my earlier post. I was feeling feverish and hence as a precautionary measure, admitted myself into hospital in New York. I was hugely anxious about my state of health and my post was highly irresponsible causing panic in several quarters.”
Cardoz had tested positive for covid-19 on March 18, Hunger Inc. Hospitality said in the statement. His death has led to an outpouring of tributes online. Chang wrote that he was heartbroken in an Instagram post and added, “we will carry on your beautiful legacy.” In a tweet, Khushbu Shah, the restaurant editor at Food & Wine magazine, wrote: “Deeply upset to hear this news. It was an honor to know Floyd. He was a kind, ground breaking chef who paved the way for so many South Asians.”
The chef wrote two cookbooks: “One Spice, Two Spice” in 2006 and “Flavorwalla” in 2016.
Survivors include Cardoz’s mother, Beryl, his wife, Barkha, and their two sons, Justin and Peter.