Local Author Writes Novel Foodies Will Love
Q: You’ve said that your book, which features a character who leaves India as a young man and moves to France, was inspired by your friend film director Ismail Merchant.
A: Yes, I was friends with Ismail Merchant, who made those beautiful movies in the 1980s and ‘90s, Room with a View and Remains of the Day. He was of Indian descent, originally from Mumbai. We were in London when he suggested I write a novel that could become a film. It took me a very long time because I had a very demanding day job, and Forbes taught me to write short—executives don’t have a lot of time, so everything has to be compact. The first version was a novella, and Harper Collins India bought it. I did a book tour in India, they loved it there, and then it was sold to Scribner in the U.S., and I expanded it.
Q: Are the characters based on people you know?
A: I had a grandmother who lived in Cherry Hill, and frankly, Mme. Mallory is a bit like my grandmother. Hassan’s father is much like Ismail Merchant. And there’s a character in the book who was inspired by a three-star chef in France who committed suicide when they took away his third star.
Q: Do you love to cook? What are your favorite places to eat in Philly?
A: All the men in my family are great cooks, my dad is a fantastic cook. But I’m purely a self-taught, intuitive cook, so I had to do an awful lot of research. I got into some of the top kitchens in London, New York and Mumbai. I love Vietnam on 11th Street, I hugely admire Stephen Starr, particularly Pod. I like the unpretentious ethnic food, in Whitemarsh there’s a fantastic place, Persian Grill. And Saffron in Bala Cynwyd.
Q: Will Hollywood turn your book into the next “Slumdog Millionaire”?
A: From your lips to God’s ears! It’s in active film development.