Chef Priyanka Naik
Uncovering the Heroes Making a Difference Through Food - SNACC's Food Hero Series
Where did you grow up?
Staten Island, NYC
Where do you live now?
What do you do currently for work?
I am self-employed for my business The Spicy Mango Foodies, LLC., the parent company of 'Chef Priyanka,' where I work as a content creator, TV Host, writer, author world traveler, and recipe developer.
Can you tell us about your journey as a self-taught chef, how your career evolved over time, and how you came to be recognized as one of America's best chefs?
I grew up with food at the center of our lives - being first generation Indian American meant that food was one of the few ways we can stay closely connected to our roots, family, culture and language. We grew up vegetarian and I primarily learned how to cook from my parents and obsessively watching Food Network at the time. I made a conscious decision to not attend culinary school because the focus was mostly on European cuisine and non-veg food, which went against my philosophy. I started a blog www.chefpriyanka.com after college, realized I had a unique talent for this and began auditioning for Food Network shows. After 2-3 rejections, I finally landed a spot on Cooks vs Cons (a show similar to chopped) and I beat out the competition making purely vegetarian dishes and was crowned a Food Network Champion. From there I built my brand Chef Priyanka, a massive social presence, hundreds of brand deals, editorial features, wrote and published my book The Modern Tiffin with Simon & Schuster, became a TV host, mainly contributing to TODAY Show and The Kelly Clarkson Show, and even do guest chef activations/menu development for resorts around the world. I have found myself a place in the culinary and entertainment industries as an expert in being a vegan + sustainable chef, author, TV Host and traveler.
Can you share with us a memorable experience you’ve had in the kitchen or in your career?
Cooking on TV with Kelly Clarkson and learning that she actually goes home and has her home cook make dishes from my book for her family!!!
What is your signature dish and what inspired you to create it?
Masala Chickpea Bruschetta with Pomegranate - it's from my cookbook The Modern Tiffin and this dish is a true culmination of my background and upbringing as a first generation Indian American in Staten Island, NY. Masala Chickpeas are vibrant, spicy and wholesome, while the vessel is reminiscent of a traditional Italian bruschetta. .
In your opinion, what actions can individuals take to support a more sustainable food system? How can we incorporate these changes into our daily lives?
I provide everyday tips on how to a more eco-friendly life in my newsletter Ecokitchen in The Washington Post. Every action makes a difference - packing leftovers at restaurants, composting, recycling, minimizing meat/dairy intake, shopping locally, buying in-season produce - all of this supports a healthier environment and stronger food system. And most, if not all, of these habits can be incorporated into our daily lives.
What is your proudest culinary accomplishment?
Independently building my own network to finally establish myself as an expert and authority in the culinary and media spaces, while simultaneously building my whole other career in tech. I was just laid off from Twitter at the end of 2023.
What's next for you? Are there any exciting projects or collaborations you're working on that you'd like to share?
I am going to be a guest chef for Cafe Gratitude in LA on Oct 19th with a one day pop-up! And a few other projects that are in the works!
If you want to learn more about this month's Food Hero, follow Chef Priyanka Naik on Instagram!