Growing up in New Jersey, Hetal Vasavada can still remember making semolina pudding with her mom when she was 9 years old. Deep down, she wanted to eat the cookies and fluffy cakes that she saw on T.V.. But at her house, her Indian upbringing set the tone for her future taste buds.
When Vasavada got to college, she would walk around the dorms and sell desserts to her classmates. When her parents lost their jobs while she was a student, she helped offset the financial burden of tuition by sticking to what she knew best—baking! Once school was finished though, she began working in healthcare in San Francisco. But in 2015, she decided to quit her job and revert back to pursuing her dream of being a chef.
She found her big break when she became a contestant on the hit cooking show, MasterChef. After her experience was over and while she was pregnant with her first child, she took her passions for cooking online and started a blog called “Milk and Cardamom.”
Her Indian Heritage Paved the Way
As a child, Vasavada explains that her mom was always her biggest inspiration in the kitchen.
The natural-born chef would never follow recipes, instead using her intuition to create delicious Indian meals that still hold a fond place in Vasavad’s memory.
From an interview with Entertainment Times back in 2016, Vasavada remembers “standing between [her] mom’s legs when [she] was 3 while she would make roti. She would get so annoyed with [her], so instead she’d hand [her] some dough, a mini rolling pin and a plate and tell [her] to roll [her] own ‘mini’ roti.”
“I also remember pulling up a chair to the stove next to my mom and stirring kadhi next to her making sure I didn’t burn it. Making chai with my ba in the morning is also a special memory for me, she passed away a few years ago and India never really feels the same without her. My passion for food developed from the love my mother and grandmother showed when they’d cook for anyone and my father who took pride in his garden and providing healthy food for his family.”
No matter where she went, that love for family and affinity for cooking is what led to her making a career change to become a blogger and author.
Her New Career as a Blogger and Author
Of course, her time on MasterChef was a way to kickstart her career change into the culinary world, but it was her consulting background that gave way to Vasvada’s new career as a creator.
Moving away from the healthcare space, she began food consulting for startups where she helps create recipes that embody their brand. She also aids in designing marketing campaigns to promote said brands on social media.
“Not many people can say they are passionate about their work,” says Vasvada, “and luckily because of MasterChef, I can happily say that I am where I belong.”
Not only has her consulting business taken off, but after leaving MasterChef, Vasvada launched her own blog—”Milk & Cardamom”—which she eventually transformed into a successful cookbook released in July of 2019. In an article from the New York Times, Vasavada explains how she advocated to hone in on traditional Indian flavors and techniques as opposed to simply featuring “cookies and cakes and tarts.”
In her mind, it was important to spotlight the twist of Indian desserts with an American flair. For example, one of her favorite recipes in the book is a peanut laddoo dipped in Nutella. Sadly, her mother doesn’t necessarily approve of the changes, but in Vasvada’s mind, “this is how [she can] introduce people in the West to [desserts like] burfi.”
Loving Yourself and Following Your Dreams
“The desserts are incredible,” says Meherwan Irani, Executive Chef of the Chai Pani Restaurant Group. “Hetal has made the exotic approachable and the complex easy. [Her] book should be a big step forward for Indian desserts deserving their rightful place in the western world as works of art and tradition.”
And for Vasavada herself, she couldn’t be happier about where her passion for food and love for family has taken her. She still lives in San Francisco and embraces her roles as an entrepreneur, mother and author. Her blog is also a safe place where she expresses herself and wants to connect with others to help support their dreams and goals.
“[My] blog is a place for me to share my recipes, travel tips, and the joys of being a new mom!” Vasvada shares.
Whether it’s making Orange Cardamom Cake or Boba Milk Tea, Vasvada invites you to indulge in what makes life sweet. Most of all, she hopes that through her work, she can help others discover what’s sweet about their own lives and inspire them to share that with the world.
To learn more about Hetal Vasavada, click here to connect!