Monica Bhide is a culinary cultivator, explorer and teacher – as well as her family’s resident chef. When it comes to food, she’s just as curious about the how and the why things are made as the influences that different cultures have in today’s kitchen. She’s the author of three cookbooks – “The Spice is Right: Easy Indian Cooking for Today”; “The Everything India Cookbook;” and “Modern Spice” (Simon and Schuster, 2009). Modern Spice was also customized for the Indian market and published in India by Random House.
How did you get into food writing?
I was an engineer with two master’s degrees, a six-figure dream career in training and development, a big house, friends, a loving husband and two amazing children. On a personal level I was fulfilled, but on a professional level, something was missing.
Then, one day, my whole world came to a standstill. A very, very dear friend suddenly passed away in a freak accident. She was in her mid-thirties and had been married the same year that I had. Her death and other circumstances really made me question my life choices. After some serious soul searching, I quit my job to become a full-time writer. It has been eight, wonderful, amazing, years since I made that decision.
I am so bad: my favorite ingredients change with time! Used to be curry leaves with their lemony, earthy flavor but these days I am quite seriously obsessed with garlic.
How would you describe DC Cuisine?
Twenty years ago, when I first moved to DC, it used to be non-existent! Now I would say vibrant and trendy!
How long have you lived in DC and how did you end up here?
About 11 years in all. I first came to DC to go to school. I got my Masters degree from George Washington University. After that, I moved around a lot and then ended up back in NoVa about ten years ago.. and I just love it here!
Who are your culinary inspirations?
Oh, so many. But I would have to say that the number one is my father. He inspires me so much: to learn about new ingredients, to use them in different ways and to never be afraid in the kitchen.
What is your favorite local restaurant and why?
Oh, so many! I adore the mussels and lamb at Indique Heights, the palak chaat at Rasika, everything at Oyamel and Estadio... So much good food in DC now, it is hard to pick a favorite!
Favorite farmers market?
I really like the ambiance at the Fresh Farm market in the Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle
What is your favorite food show?
I rarely watch food tv but when I do, I am all about Ina!
Do you have a favorite cookbook? Number of cookbooks in your collection?
I think I have close to several hundred and they are really taking over my house! I adore them all.
What are your most exciting challenges right now?
I am working on a novel! A first for me. Wish me luck!
Favorite local food blog besides your own?
I am a huge fan of Metrocurean.
Kitchen appliance you can’t live without?
My grinder for spices and herbs.
Any upcoming trips?
I am heading to Paris in March to learn to cook and live like a Parisian!