Sam Gupta is the proprietor of Traditions in Tustin, the newest but already one of the best Indian restaurants in a town full of Indian restaurants.
On the newsy side, his place was recently granted a beer and wine license after a long drawn out struggle with landlord and the City. And you'll want some of that cold beer, because Gupta's Northern Indian fare is spicy. But read this interview and you'll find out that not everything they cook is spicy, as he is quick to point out.
Stay tuned tomorrow. Mr. Gupta will share his restaurant's recipe for one of the most popular dishes at his restaurant (and every Indian restaurant, actually).
OC Weekly: What's the one dish that you make that defines you? And why?
Sam Gupta: The one dish that best defines Traditions would be our Chef's Special Goat Curry. This dish is only offered in our buffet and even then not everyday. The time and care we put into its preparation defines our restaurant.
OCW: What do you think people misunderstand most about Indian food?
SG: That all Indian food is very spicy. Spice used in the right way enhances the flavor of food. Which is what Traditions is known for.
OCW: What's your favorite Orange County restaurant (other than yours). And what's your favorite dish there?
SG: This is going to sound strange but I love pizza therefore I will have to say the Vegetarian Delight at the Round Table.
OCW: What culture's food is the most challenging for you to like?
OCW: Where do you think is the best place in the world? For food or otherwise.
SG: New Delhi, India.
OCW: Last meal of your life, what would it be?
SG: Pani puri and papri chaat.
OCW: When you go to the supermarket, what's the first aisle you head to?
SG: Vegetable Aisle.
OCW: Your most indispensable kitchen tool or appliance:
SG: A sharp knife
OCW: What is the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
OCW: What do you think is missing from the OC food scene?
SG: A traditional Indian chaat house.
OCW: What's the weirdest customer request you've had?
SG: A customer, after eating our buffet, asked for a bed to sleep. At first I thought he was joking but he was very serious.
OCW: What's your proudest moment as a chef and restaurant owner?
SG: When the doors to Traditions opened for business for the first time.
OCW: Who is your idol/hero/role model, culinary or otherwise?
SG: Richard Graham, my mentor and colleague at the Maurya Sheraton in New Delhi India.
OCW: What's the hardest lesson you've learned about being a chef and restaurant owner?
SG: Patience. Whether as a chef dealing with your staff and the pressures of the position or as an owner/operator serving your guests and/or working with the city or a vendor, without this key ingredient, all you have is a recipe for failure.