India: Leading the Way in Global School Meals with Asha Gomez and Shridhar Venkat

Interview by Billy Shore

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

How can we spread more happiness to children in this world? Akshaya Patra Foundation USA CEO Shridhar Venkat and The Third Space owner and chef Asha Gomez join hosts Debbie and Billy Shore to discuss the challenges and triumphs of alleviating childhood hunger around the world. “The world needs more compassion. If the rich people in the world looked on this problem with compassion, I feel you could solve this problem in one year,” claims Venkat. “People are innately good. People want to do good… a lot of times people don’t know how or have the resources necessary to be able to do good,” says Gomez.

Both guests talk about the personal fulfillment they experience through their work. “To truly enjoy work, work should be love made visible,” explains Gomez about her cooking and her work for international aid organization CARE. “At the end of the day, you are giving wings to their dreams,” declares Venkat about the 1.76M children who are fed through Akshaya Patra’s school meal programs.

Tune in for this heartfelt and illuminating conversation with two guests who are passionate about helping kids.

Resources and Mentions:

Asha Gomez

Asha Gomez

Author of the cookbook “My Two Souths” with Running Press (Perseus Books) which launched in 2016. My Two Souths has received rave reviews from the Washington Post, Garden and Gun, and The New York Times to name a few. My Two Souths was nominated as a finalist for a James Beard Award in the American Cooking category and won the prestigious Piglet Award for best cookbook. In addition, the cookbook was a finalist in Gourmand’s World Cookbook Awards. Asha’s second cookbook featuring global cuisine is called “I Cook In Color”,(Running Press) slated for global release in 2020. In 2017, Asha was featured twice in the New York Times in a piece named “A chef’s quest in India” and “ Spice-laden Kerala…” chronicling an incredible trip to Kerala, India. She is most passionate about her advocacy and policy work in reducing global food insecurity as a global brand ambassador for CARE and her work with the United Nations, and the James Beard Foundation. Throughout her career, Asha has used food as a platform to connect people across countries and cultures and has seen firsthand how food and nutrition can enhance the lives of those facing poverty. Her engaging demeanor and remarkable ability to translate wonkish research into compelling personal narratives makes her a highly sought after speaker nationally and internationally as a panelist, presenter, and moderator- including most recently with the United Nations’ Global Nutrition Summit- the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Most recently, she is featured in Chef David Chang’s web series “Ugly Delicious” currently streaming on Netflix. Season 2 of ‘Ugly Delicious’ features Asha with Chef David Chang traveling to Kerala, India and is releasing in January 2020. Asha is also a contributing writer to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, 2020 featured food and travel pieces about her travels to Spain, Italy, and the Caribbean. Most recently, Southern Living Magazine voted her a “ Southerner of the Year”. Asha Gomez launched Cardamom Hill Restaurant in January 2012 in Atlanta. An instant success, the restaurant received praising reviews, Cardamom Hill was named one of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants, was on the James Beard Semi- Finalist List of 20 Best New Restaurants, one of Southern Living’s 5 Best Restaurants in the South. The acclaim universally acknowledged Asha’s pioneering spirit for opening a finer dining venture that focuses on one region of India, a rarity in the U.S. She has also been showcased in feature stories in the Wall Street Journal, Conde-Nast Traveler, Atlanta Journal- Constitution, and numerous other national publications. and her recipes have appeared in issues of Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Country Living, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, People Magazine and numerous other publications. Later she opened Spice to Table, a fast-casual Indian patisserie that garnered national and local acclaim. Spice To Table was selected by Alan Richman as # 16 in GQ Magazine’s yearly “25 best new restaurants in America award”. She founded and currently runs The Third Space-a culinary studio and multi-functional event space in Atlanta, GA, where she regularly hosts intimate dinners for guests in a Miele kitchen-designed urban loft. Here favorite endeavor is raising her 14 year-old son Ethan to be a global poverty fighter and world changer.
Shridhar Venkat

Shridhar Venkat

CEO
CEO of Akshaya Patra Foundation USA, an organization dedicated to feeding hungry children in India. He has more than 25 years of work experience with leading multinationals like Philips, ABB, Webex Communications (now CISCO), etc. Prior to joining Akshaya Venkat was vice president of sales, Webex Communications. He joined Akshaya Patra in search of existential purpose in life. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Management. He has been selected in the panel of Distinguished Alumni Leaders by NMIMS. Venkat is an Eisenhower Fellow for Innovation and is a graduate of the Advanced Management Program from Wharton Business School. He is a recipient of Mother Teresa Social Leadership Scholarship.

No Kid Hungry

Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is ending child hunger in America by ensuring all children get the healthy food they need, every day.

The Third Space

A unique and forward-thinking “culinary conversation” event studio. From the dining enthusiast and home cook, to award-winning chefs and corporations, to the inquisitive guest venturing into the world of food, The Third Space is a platform to custom tailor your culinary experience. It customizes corporate events and team building, cooking classes and chef demonstrations, private dinners and events, and culinary production, filming and media events. The Third Space bridges the gap, allowing guests to experience cooking and learning experiences in the comfort of an incredible home kitchen.

Akshaya Patra Foundation USA

Supports the work of The Akshaya Patra Foundation in India. The Akshaya Patra Foundation feeds 1.8 million children, a hot, nutritious midday meal, daily. Their goal is to feed 5 million children each day by 2025. Their work is accomplished through the cooperation of a dedicated group of compassionate individuals from a range of professions. By building relationships with individuals, multi-national corporations, foundations and grant makers, they bring awareness to the classroom hunger children in India endure, and which often forces them to drop out of school. Akshaya Patra USA has a staff of 10, with 20 volunteer-driven chapters in major cities in the US, a Board of Directors and an Advisory Board. The youth ambassador program actively engages young volunteers of all ages to bring awareness and raise funds for the program, while helping develop leadership, marketing and development skills.

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