New Line of Masala Spice Blends Honor Late Chef Floyd Cardoz

The renowned chef, a Verona resident, died from complications due to Covid-19 in March. His wife, Barkha, worked to bring his in-progress spice project to life.

The line of Floyd Cardoz Masalas from Burlap & Barrel. Photo courtesy of Burlap & Barrel

Floyd Cardoz was passionate about introducing people to Indian flavors. The renowned chef and international restaurateur, a Verona resident, did so through his acclaimed restaurants, cookbooks, press interviews and television appearances. In early 2020, Cardoz, who was born in India and made a splash in the New York City dining scene in the late 1990s, was on the cusp of bringing these flavors right into diners’ homes. He had been hard at work on a line of Indian spice blends when he died of the coronavirus in March at age 59.

Only months later, his wife and business partner Barkha Cardoz and spice shop Burlap & Barrel have launched the Floyd Cardoz Masala line. Barka and Ethan Frisch, Burlap & Barrel co-founder, were committed to seeing the project through. “Floyd wanted to teach everyone about Indian food,” Barkha told Food & Wine. “He didn’t get to do it completely. I can’t sit quiet and let it go.”

The resulting trio of spice mixes, while still fulfilling Cardoz’s original goal of providing home cooks with warmth and spice, are now also “a memorial to his love for the cuisines of India and his passion for sharing them with the world,” as Burlap & Barrel’s website says.

“All three were blends he loved to cook with,” says Frisch. They’re “recipes he’d developed and cooked with over many years,” from the Goan masala, bright with turmeric, ginger and cinnamon, that Barkha recalls using in milder coconut milk-based curries when their sons were young. The bolder Kashmiri masala, Frisch explains, was inspired by Cardoz’s trips to India’s northernmost state as a young chef; its combination of chili and fennel makes it “perfect for meat dishes and anything grilled,” he says.

And while many families and chefs have their own unique blends and variations of garam masala, Cardoz’s is “very sweet and aromatic,” explains Burlap & Barrel’s Frisch, who co-founded the sustainable, single origin spice company in 2017. “It works as well in pastries and baked goods as it does in traditional savory applications.”

The Floyd Cardoz Masalas are all blended by hand. Photo courtesy of Burlap & Barrel

Cardoz was meticulous about fine-tuning these recipes, says Frisch, who had worked for him a decade prior at the influential Tabla in Manhattan. For close to a year, they refined them, getting the ratios just right. Shortly before Cardoz passed, he and Frisch made plans to travel to the packing facility in upstate New York together to make the blends. In mid-September, Barkha went instead. The delayed arrival of a brand-new spice blending machine meant the team had to produce the line by hand, mixing one 270-pound batch at a time.

Now these bottles, a true labor of love, are available to buy a la carte or as a set on Burlap & Barrel’s website. For inspiration on how to use the blends, Burlap & Barrel is selling Cardoz’s cookbook Flavorwalla, signed by Barkha. She, along with Frisch and food writer Jacqueline Raposo also created floydcardoz.com, a place where the chef’s recipes, appearances and information on his restaurants can live on; it also features tributes from food industry greats and friends.

Since the early October launch, when Cardoz would’ve celebrated his 60th birthday, Barkha says many home cooks have been enjoying the blends (friend and chef Ariane Duarte tried out the Kashmiri masala in a soup she served at her Verona restaurant, Ariane Kitchen & Bar).

Barkha and Frisch aren’t done sharing Cardoz’s legacy through spice. Burlap & Barrel plans to release many more of ‘Chef Floyd’s’ spice blends, says Frisch. “We have a long list.”

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