FIS Third Heritage Day Celebrates Indian Cuisine

By Nish Bhan

Houston: Nothing represents India’s diverse history and cultures better than its food. Indian cuisine is known throughout the globe for its variety, bold spices, and exciting flavors.  From delicious dosas in the South to Kashmiri yakhni in the North, no two parts of Indian cuisine are the same.  And, each cuisine in India–varied and diverse as it is–tells a unique story of the people and history it comes from. 

Few people know this better than Chef Mayank Istwal, the executive chef of Musaafer, Houston’s newest foray into high-end Indian cooking.  A world traveler and expert on Indian cuisine, history and spices, Chef Istwal journeyed across India to seek understanding of the different stories and cultures represented in India’s food.  Seeking to explore the connection between Indian heritage and its unique cuisine, Chef Istwal has been invited by Foundation for India Studies, a 501c(3) registered non-profit organization, to provide a fun, exciting and free online presentation for FIS’s Third Indo-American Heritage Day.  The presentation, “Indian Heritage Through Cuisine, Culture, and Spices” will link India’s diverse heritage to the history of its world-famous food and spices and will be an engaging and exciting capstone to FIS’s landmark, fifteenth year.

Chef Istwal’s presentation is the  latest in a series of exciting events by Foundation for India Studies celebrating Indo-American heritage.  Prior Indo-American Heritage Day events have featured engaging and prominent speakers including Sunita Williams, an astronaut of Indo-American descent.  FIS’s Indo-American Heritage Day is a unique opportunity to celebrate Indian culture, achievements and contributions in America.  In prior years, event-goers have had the opportunity to learn about Indian arts, culture, religion and history.

This year, FIS’s theme for the event focuses on the unique role of Indian food and history in Indo-American heritage.  Chef Istwal is right at home among the distinguished guests who have headlined the event in the past.   Chef Istwal is a graduate of the Institute of Hotel Management of Guwahati, India, and as a student he won the chef competition conducted by NCHMCT New Delhi. His career has spanned all across India and the Globe, from the Devigarh Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in Udaipur,to years at sea as a chef at world-class fine dining restaurant Salt Grill aboard the P&O cruise line, to working as a chef at The Lalit hotel in Udaipur and Bangalore. In addition, Chef Istwal is a student of history and Ayurveda, and has invented ‘healthy spice blends’ combining the knowledge of Ayurveda and spices to best convey the story, flavor, and spirituality of Indian cuisine. To draw inspiration for his latest project, Musaafer, the Chef embarked on a 100-day journey around the 29 states of India, discovering hundreds of new recipes to highlight the authenticity and passion of Indian cuisine to Houston.

Chef Istwal’s presentation will include an interactive Q&A with the community and one-of-a-kind recipe demonstration.  Registration for this unique event is free at