Known for mixing extreme flavors, chef Floyd Cardoz was an amazing chef and supporter of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival since nearly the beginning. He was a fixture each fall, treating attendees to his modern interpretation of Indian cuisine — but of course, using local ingredients from the islands. It was always a match made in heaven. 

Chef Floyd Cardoz, a leader in modern Indian cuisine, with Hawaii Food & Wine Festival co-founder Alan Wong at the HFWF18 Welcome Reception. Photo: Dane Nakama/Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, 2018

Hawaii Food and Wine is about giving back to the community. We have to keep supporting our community and moving on in life.

-Vikram Garg

In March, Cardoz tragically passed due to complications with COVID-19. To celebrate his life, Hawaii Food and Wine Festival hosted a dinner, The Spice of Life: A Tribute to Floyd Cardoz  at TBD… Hawaii at the Lotus Honolulu. “It’s to honor him, his legacy, his style of food,” said Chef Vikram Garg, a close friend and colleague of chef Cardoz, who prepared a menu dedicated to and inspired by Cardoz for guests to enjoy in person. 

This year, the culinary industry lost one of the greats, a passionate chef and an incredible pioneer for Indian cuisine in America, but Garg and the Hawaii Food and Wine guests used  the event to celebrate his life. “It is an experience you can’t get anywhere else.” 

Cardoz was honored to serve “Indian food with a twist,” a style that inspired Garg’s menu for the event. Garg knew Cardoz before they cooked together at the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. “We always enjoyed a good Mai Tai when we came to Hawaii.” Garg and Cardoz had similar backgrounds and cooking styles, so they would spend their time together “chatting about food and chatting about family.”

Floyd’s wife and sons were invited to attend as special guests; however, the family determined it was best not to travel during the pandemic. Instead, Barkha sent a video message and welcome, which guests could play via a QR code on the dinner menu. “Every dish here has a story line and a meaning,” said Garg about the event’s menu.

Garg kicked off the night with a tribute to Cardoz’s latest restaurant, Bombay Canteen. The dish included an arugula chaat, onion pakora and tamarind vinaigrette. The guests then enjoyed a halibut with a coconut coriander chutney, inspired by Cardoz’s book, “One Spice, Two Spice: American Food, Indian Flavors.” 

(Top) Along with chef Garg’s menu inspired by chef Cardoz, each guest was given a HFWF mask and hand sanitizer to enjoy a safe dinner. (Bottom) Chef Garg puts the finishing touches on his opening course, the arugula chaat. Photos: Reid Shimabukuro/Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, 2020

(Top) Floyd Cardoz with chefs Eric Oto, Michael Ginor, Antonio Tommasi and Mark Peel for a group photo at a HFWF18 event. Photo: Kris Labang/Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, 2018. (Bottom) The main course of The Spice of Life, a spice-crusted beef filet, resembled a dish that chef Garg served at one of chef Floyd’s restaurants for a fundraiser. Photo: Reid Shimabukuro/Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, 2020.

Garg also prepared a 7 spice-crusted beef filet, similar to a dish he served at Cardoz’s Tabla restaurant for a fundraiser. The meal concluded with a chocolate and cardamom crémeux. Garg wrote on the menu that he “created this dessert to honor a friend, colleague and great chef.” 

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Hawaii Food & Wine Festival was able to honor Cardoz’s life through this event. “It’s about taking the right precautions and measures to do it in a very elegant way.” The event was run under restaurant restrictions, so guests were able to safely dine-in with staggered seating times. “HFWF was one of those events where you went, you met people, you shook hands with them, you hugged them. This year it’s like a long distance relationship.” Although the new style of events was a “culture shock” to Garg, he is grateful that the festival is continuing “giving people good experiences.” Although the number of guests was cut down from past years, the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival event was successful in bringing people together.

“Hawaii Food and Wine is about giving back to the community. We have to keep supporting our community and moving on in life. Thanks to all the guests who came out and want to support the community.” Although the pandemic has created new barriers, Garg is excited to have overcome the obstacles to hold events like The Spice of Life for the Hawaii community.