“I’m so sorry,” sad a tearful voice on the other end of the telephone early this morning.
“About what?” I asked, groggy, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
“Chef Floyd…” came the response.
“Oh no,” I sagged back down against the pillows. “It’s not possible…”
I knew he’d been ill…but it couldn’t be. Not Chef Floyd.
My thoughts immediately turned to his beautiful wife, Barkha, and his two sons. I knew Justin better than I knew Peter mainly Justin had been part of the opening team at Paowalla, his gorgeous big bright smile, welcoming in the droves that summer of 2016.
I, too, was part of that opening team.
I had been introduced to the great chef, of whom I already knew so much, by the opening GM. I was shaking when I met Chef Floyd, his reputation as a star in the firmament of New York’s culinary scene being so stellar. But Chef Floyd was not in the least intimidating. He was kind and gentle and had the biggest heart.
He hired me as a server and I promised myself to be the best he had. I knew about Indian food and spices and how the addition of even a pinch of something would change the flavour of a dish and how spices would affect the taste of a wine, when paired with it, often leading to pairing wines that were unexpected.
I loved the job and I loved learning even more about food and wine as the months went by and I absolutely adored Chef Floyd and his wife, Barkha, who together created a real family, looking after all of us as they did their own sons.
But the time came for me to leave when I decided to dedicate myself full-time to writing. But I never lost touch with Chef or Barkha and they often, over the past four years, kept asking me to come back in some way, shape or form. I tried, a couple of times, but somehow or the other, the timing was never quite right.
The last time I saw Chef Floyd was when he held a cooking class at Paowalla: he made clams in green coconut curry and a classic Hyderabadi biryani and my greatest honour was to have been there to help.
He was brilliant: a born teacher with his patience, his smile and his self-deprecating humility that was so very endearing.
I am beyond sad that he is no longer. But I know that he will live on in my memory as someone who helped me when I needed it most and taught me so much about food, wine and hospitality. But more than that, he was just a beautiful soul and great man. Thank you, Chef for everything.