The South Asian Times

18 November 2018 19:42 PM

Divya's Kitchen: Ayurvedic food amid mansions in Manhattan

By Suchitra Srinivas

If you decide to drive by Divya’s Kitchen in Manhattan you cannot escape the authentic smell of rich herbs that will make you care for a plate. A healthy vegetarian experience to dining in New York is guaranteed here.

Their recipes are based on ayurvedic doctrines, the food cooked isn't just fresh but is medicinal initself, says Divya Alter who runs the popular restaurant, perhaps the first of its kind in the city.

Completing two years, the restaurant has instilled a new thinking about eating for a healthy living. And rightly, it gets mentioned as the best health restaurant and finds place among top 10 restaurants in many categories.

The food we eat is not just to fill the belly, it makes you who you are, what you think and how you behave. Food is medicine and what you eat has got to be fresh and should have the right blend of herbs and grains cooked in the correct manner to aid the body in its metabolism. Food designs are based on the geography and physical uniqueness ofan individual,and the menu we have for winter cannot help us in summers, explains Divya. The unison with nature can be brought more through the ingredients they use in cooking and that remains the secret at Divya’s Kitchen.

In the initial days,when Divya and her husband Prentiss ran a meal subscription service,she was not handing out menu cards to her customers. Instead she would read their pulse to understand the dosha balance of the body and would come up with a menu to suit the individual at that particular time.“But with the clientele increasing it is getting hard to spend such time on each customer,” she concedes.

But even those who are exposed to ayurvedic wellnessaspects know that when eating out you cannot expect to have a wholesome and healthy dinner. We end up returning with bloated tummies and bothering acidity. But Not anymore, when you make a choice to eatat Divya’s,said its owner.

Divya’s story

Born and brought up in Bulgaria, Divya developed a special liking for the yogic life. She was attracted to learning yoga even in the communist country where its practice was prohibited. Yoga led to learning the eastern philosophies, and particularly Bhagavad Gita..

She had opportunity to visit India for her studies at Vrindavan Institute for Higher Education and shealso livedin Mayapur. Her 5-yearsojourn in Indiaexposed her to Ayurveda and Indian cooking. Thanks to a brief illness, Divya experienced the healing aspects of ayurvedic food and habits.. After moving to the US,she got more involved instudying Ayurveda With Vaidya R.K. Mishra.Her love for cooking gaveher the opportunity to start a culinary school at the Bhakti Center in Manhattan.

After 10 years of teaching, she opened Divya’ Kitchen with her American husband, Prentiss Alter, who is the business brain behind this novel concept. The restaurant’s ambiance is homely and it can handle up to 200 customers per day. “You come and eat home cooked food. Some Customers come twice the same day to have a fulfilling experience at our kitchen,” she said.

Full meals cost just $17,3 course dinner is at $33 -- bargain prices in Manhattan. Often people pack food for home as the generous quantity is too much to finish.Eighty percent of the ingredients used are organic, Dva claims.

“I am impressed by the people who come: they want to behealthy. Many yoga practitioners are regulars. It feels satisfying to cook for people who value the food they eat,” said Divya.

Lunch and brunch sales are picking up. Dinner and weekends have to be pre-booked to ensure seats.

Correct cooking aids

Traditional Ayurvedic Spices, as well as Divya’s cookbook, ‘What to Eat for How You Feel’, are on sale at Divya's Kitchen.

Ayurvedic principles of cooking are picking up and may end up going mainstream. Just like yoga picked up in recent years,its sister science, Ayurveda, is also becoming popular, says Divya.

“We have received offers to expand in California and open more shops in the city as well. We want to make sure we have the right business model and do it right. We do not want to go big and compromise on the quality and that is why we are not yet on the expansion mode,” says Divya.

In the cooking classes Divya and Prentiss haverun for the past 10 years, over 20,000 students have been exposed to learning the right ayurvedic doctrines in cooking food. “We want to teach people how to cook these healthy foods so that they can eat healthy every day at home. Eating fresh meals is the key to healthy living,” they say.

Four years ago, their non-profit Bhagavat Life institute also started a professional certificate course on Ayurvedic Nutrition and Culinary Training. Their students come from places as far as London, Miami, Michigan and Virginia. “Our graduates are spreading the wonderful ayurvedic principles of cooking across the globe,” Divya said, adding that for them the restaurant business and education go hand in hand.

At Divya’s Kitchen, one cannot miss western style Avocado Dip, Spinach Cheese Cutlets,Spiced Coconut Chips, made with gingerand yummy in Indian taste. Must also try the Soothing Mung Soup.The Vegetable Curry in Cashew Sauce using Indian spices likehing, coriander andred lentilsis made colorful using turmeric.Khichdi using quinoa is a special hit. The Lasagna feels filling yet not never heavy. With Carrot Risotto you get the taste of an Italian dish cooked in ayurvedic style.

Divya’s Kitchen ison 1st Avenue in New York. Url: divyaskitchen.com

Update: 05 Nov, 2018

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