Why Spice Coast Lost

Owning a restaurant isn’t easy. It requires long hours, buckets of money, good marketing, and an original idea. Unless you’re a restaurant god, it takes years of operation to pay off debts that came from opening your restaurant. Your consumers aren’t forgiving, either- a couple missteps and you could be facing an avalanche of criticism, thanks to the rapid word-of-mouth that is Facebook.

But what if you took that experience and made it so that if they failed, maybe the owner could see their restaurant live another day? But no, that wouldn’t be interesting, would it? What if, if they survived, they would get a national chain, every restaurant owner’s dream?

And what if this was all made into a reality TV show?

That was the idea behind America’s Next Great Restaurant, the NBC show that aired from March 6th to May 1st, 2011. I think that this show really represented the struggle that restaurant owners have to go to. As it can be seen by the countless people that have been eliminated off the show, owners walk a thin, thin line, courting displeasure all the way. The winner of the show was Jamawn Woods, creator of Soul Daddy. The runners-up were Joey Galluzzi and, more importantly for our purposes, Sudhir Kandula.

Sudhir Kandula, a man from New York City, came to this show with the concept of modern Indian cuisine. This restaurant was called Spice Coast. It was fresh, it was new, and it was different. Sudhir showed that he could handle the strenuous demands of owning a restaurant. He was focused on his concept, and he was willing to take initiative.

Image taken from Facebook

So why didn’t he win?

He didn’t win for one reason only- his concept was too modern.

By attempting to relate his concept more to the American audience, he compromised the authenticity of Indian cuisine. For example, over the course of the nine episodes, Sudhir had to scale back on how spicy he made his food, due to the urging of the judges. Indian cuisine is inherently spicy, and eliminating spice from Indian cuisine is like eliminating cheese or pasta from Italian cuisine-it compromises the authenticity of the cuisine as a whole.

What’s more, as the competition drew to a close, Sudhir began to add many Indian versions of Tex-Mex dishes onto his menu, making it more like Chipotle and less Indian. I’m all for combining cultures and revamping foods in different ways, it’s just when all of a sudden half the foods on the menu are “cuisine-hybrids” is there a problem.

The mistake that Sudhir made was that he took the modernization too far. You can have authentic Indian cuisine and have it be modern at the same time. The Indian taco Sudhir introduced in episode six was brilliant. But having a menu filled with such items isn’t authentic Indian cuisine at all.

See how hard it is to own a restaurant? Owners can’t win with everybody. With that in mind, I will say this-though I didn’t exactly like Sudhir’s concept, I do think he took a step in the right direction. It’s about time there’s a national Indian food chain.

Author: Apoorva Malarvannan

My name is Apoorva, and I am currently a high school student in the Greater Twin Cities area. I enjoy reading, writing, speaking, and photography. I have a blog here: www.outrospects.com.

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