What started in the kitchen of a Brooklyn apartment in 2003 has grown into the most successful line of crossover Indian food ever to hit American grocery stores. The office and test kitchen of Maya Kaimal Indian Fine Foods have taken over a converted theater in Rhinebeck, where she lives, and the main manufacturing plant has outgrown its Catskill roots and moved to Houston, Texas. “I do feel pretty lucky,” Maya Kaimal said. “I get to go eat five different kinds of curries today and you know, say, this needs a little more cayenne. That’s my heavy lifting for the day.” But there’s drudgery too, like getting up at 4 a.m. to drive to JFK. So on weekends at home, she likes to take it slow.
BLUEBERRY PANCAKES I’ve got a husband and two twin girls who are 14, and we have a golden retriever and we’re right in Rhinebeck village. I like to make a big blueberry pancake breakfast on the weekends or something else kind of yummy and indulgent and take my dog on a really nice long walk, take her to some of the little secret fields I’ve found in Rhinebeck where I can let her off leash, let her have fun.
LOCAL COLOR I try to drag the girls somewhere interesting, take advantage of our lovely Hudson Valley if we can, go for a walk, Poets Walk or down by Mills Mansion, or go wander around Hudson, or wander around uptown Kingston. Just an afternoon of a little bit of local color. Then I like to make Indian food for dinner. That’s pretty much my ideal day off.
DO YOU USE YOUR OWN SAUCES? I do sometimes. Not if I have the time to do something from scratch. Right now I’m working on a new cookbook so I’m definitely working on a lot of stuff from scratch. But weeknights, yeah, absolutely, I will use my own curries. One of my daughters particularly loves the butter masala so we’ll have butter chicken once in awhile.
BY THE BOOK? Weeknights are very much like I’ll just crank it out. But when I have time I love cooking from cookbooks. I use them a lot. It’s like you’re having a conversation with the cookbook author. You’re really noticing their style and they’re holding your hand a little bit. You’re sort of on this journey together and end up in hopefully a delicious place at the end. Since I like to write cookbooks, I like to use them too, because I feel like it’s a language that’s just kind of a pleasure for me. I don’t feel confined by them. They comfort me.
A FRESH FACE After dinner, I get fairly boring. I’ll have a glass of wine and watch Netflix. I do like that Salt Fat Acid Heat. Samin Nosrat I think her name is, she’s this really interesting Iranian chef who wrote this cookbook and now has her own Netflix show, one focused on each of those different themes. She’s terrific, very unaffected and kind of a nice fresh face in food TV, and goes deep with each of her subjects. But you can’t be doing something else while you’re watching it, because she goes to like Italy and it’s all subtitles. I tried wrapping Christmas presents and watching I’m like oh my god this is not going to work. You need full focused attention.
EVENING CHECK-IN I’ll often end up working at night, so it’s not a very good use of my day off. It’s like if you take too much time off and you’ve got your own business, you miss something. There’s always the need to check in or do something at a slower pace.
SLOW COOKER I’m kind of a slow processor. I like to take my time with things. I’m a horrible multi-tasker. I have to let things kind of wash over me, and I sort of need to take it in gradually, think things over a lot. I just kind of like to be on a slow pace on my weekend evenings and not feel high pressure, but just do a little work at a nice pace where I can think things through. If I need to work on writing a little copy, I can’t do that during the weekday. I need to write some label copy right now. That’s the kind of thing, the stuff that’s a little more thinking, less just doing. Or sketching, sometimes I’ll sketch out an idea of what I want some packaging to look like. That’s harder to do when your phone’s ringing, people are texting, you’re looking at the computer.
Interview by Becca Tucker