Floyd Cardoz, a pioneering chef at fine dining restaurants in New York and Mumbai who introduced many to the incredible flavors of Indian cuisine, died in a New Jersey hospital today. Cardoz had tested positive for COVID-19. He was 59.
"It is with deep sorrow that we inform you of the passing away of chef Floyd Cardoz," read a statement from Hunger Inc. Hospitality, where Cardoz was the culinary director. Cardoz had returned from Mumbai to his home in the U.S. on March 8, and checked himself into a local hospital a week later, saying he felt feverish.
"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," said restaurateur Danny Meyer, who partnered with Cardoz on two restaurants, in a statement. "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. My heart is just broken. His life and career was full of triumph and adversity."
"As great a chef as Floyd was," tweeted chef and friend David Chang, "he was a better person and an amazing dad."
Born in Mumbai, Cardoz gained attention as chef de cuisine at Gray Kunz’s Lespinasse in New York. He gained acclaim when he paired the flavors of his childhood kitchen with high-level French culinary technique at New York’s Tabla, which opened in 1998. Tabla, owned by Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, enjoyed a successful run of more than a decade before its closure in 2010.
Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator's free Breaking News Alerts.
Cardoz went on to helm the kitchen at Meyer’s North End Grill, also in Manhattan, before opening his own restaurants in both New York and Mumbai, including Bombay Bread Bar (New York), the Bombay Canteen and O Pedro (both in Mumbai).
Cardoz was a true chef’s chef, perhaps not gaining the cult status of some of his contemporaries but always highly esteemed in the culinary industry. His easygoing personality and boundless energy meant that he regularly found the spotlight with TV appearances, including as winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters in 2011.
Cardoz ran his kitchens with rigor and precision, but even in the thick of a busy night he had a smile for his colleagues or the time to stop and say hello to a returning restaurant guest. His cuisine seemed breathtakingly simple at times, yet that simplicity belied the sometimes shockingly extensive list of ingredients and preparation that went into a dish.
(I worked as a part-time maitre’d at Tabla for several years. I once attempted my favorite dish from the menu, halibut with watermelon curry, after hounding chef Cardoz for the recipe, only to realize that sometimes, it’s best to leave things to the experts.)
Cardoz’s passion and professionalism, as well as the smile that always reached his eyes, will be missed. He is survived by his mother, Beryl, his wife and business partner, Barkha, and two sons, Peter and Justin.