Saran’s first cookbook, Indian Home Cooking (Clarkson Potter, 2004), focused on home-style Indian recipes, and his second, American Masala (Clarkson Potter, 2007), livened up American favorites with Indian flavors. In his third and newest book, with Raquel Pelzel and Charlie Burd, Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country (Chronicle)—named after the 67-acre farm Saran and his partner, Charlie Burd, now own, live on, and care for in upstate New York—Saran “bares his heart and soul.”

Masala Farm chronicles the adventures of country life and features more than 80 farm to table recipes using Indian techniques and flavors. Saran includes food from all over, and India, he says, comes in unexpectedly. For Saran, “it’s all about the journey.” The recipes in this book took him on a journey to find the best from different people. “I go to grandmas to get recipes,” he says. “The biscuit recipe in Masala Farm comes from a grandmother in Florida, and they are the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted.” The book is a beautiful, delightful work, much, it seems, like the farm itself, which visitors describe as “magic.”

Born in New Delhi, Saran moved to the United States to study graphic design and fine arts. He always liked tactile work like embroidery, macramé, crochet, and needlepoint, but computer technology made it impossible for him to use his hands, so, as he puts it, “my hands found another calling”: cooking. Growing up in a privileged household with a cook and servants, Saran says, he ate very well, and there were always “people outside of the nuclear family being fed, every night, every breakfast, every dinner.”

In New York, Saran began cooking and entertaining for 12 to 100 people a night, when word got around “that an Indian kid was cooking some of the best food in New York City.” He began catering and was then offered the chance to open an Indian restaurant, which he did—the critically acclaimed Dévi in New York City. The same week the restaurant offer came in, Saran was accepted into Columbia University. He turned down studying for his Ph.D. in languages and religion, but did not give up teaching. “I am surrounded by education,” Saran says (he teaches cooking). “That’s what I love most—when I teach, I learn the most.”

He is the chairperson of the Culinary Institute of America’s Asian Studies Program and travels extensively promoting the flavors of India. It was Saran’s desire to educate that inspired him to write his cookbooks: “I am very interested in building intercultural bridges. For me, food builds the bridge to humanity.”

At Masala Farm (masala means spice in Hindi), Saran and Burd raise goats, ducks, chickens, and geese, focusing on heritage breeds. “For Charlie and me, it wasn’t about making money. We wanted to have breeds and varieties of animals that the world had lost or forgotten,” Saran says. The money he makes in the other aspects of his life “go into the earth, into the animals.” Moving to a rural community from New York City was not without its setbacks: “local people had stereotypes of what New Yorkers were like, what gay men were like, what Indian people were like.” But Saran and Burd have learned by trial and error, by reading books, by observing and working with other farmers. Overall, Saran is thrilled by the connection the farm has built between people from such different cultures, religions, and ethnicities. As master baker and cookbook author Rose Levy Beranbaum says in her foreword, “Suvir and his partner, Charlie, have found the perfect setting for living their passionate pursuits... farming, entertaining friends and family, and fulfilling their spiritual convictions of community and responsibility to the environment.” At the farm, Saran says, there is a constant stream of people coming and going—chefs, family, friends and strangers—which is exactly how Saran wants it. “At the farm,” he says, “every night is a party.”