Stage Chef Pushkar Marathe

by Jadan Horyn

Event Planning and Catering to the Who’s Who

Flavor is that elusive characteristic to describe yet alluringly simple to identify. It breaks across the palette like fireworks: bright, bold, fresh, with heat or tang. It is something that opens minds and breaks down cultural barriers. Flavor is after all what caused our European forebears to venture to parts unknown in search of spices to season their bland daily fare.

Today, foodies are always on the search to find new and inventive flavors and the creators behind them. Often in hip neighborhoods or posh places, these cultivators of cuisine become cultural centers all their own. PGA Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens is an unusual locale for such an establishment yet it is where you can find Chef Pushkar Marathe at Stage (pronounced STAAHJ). 

Stage is the brainchild of general manager Andy Dugard (right), a native of Liverpool, England, and Chef Pushkar Marathe (left) native of Nagpur, India. Marathe previously worked at Ghee in Miami, a two-time James Beard-nominated restaurant. These two friends and collaborators saw Palm Beach as an area in South Florida ripe for a culinary revolution. I spoke with Andy and Chef Pushkar on Covid, cuisine, and community. 

JH: PGA Boulevard seems an unlikely place for a bold inventive restaurant. Why this location?

Chef Pushkar: Well, economics of course. But we realized a majority of our clients were coming from North Palm Beach, from Singer Island, from Jupiter Island. Most are very well-traveled and they are open to a concept that they may get in a more cosmopolitan city such as New York or Miami. 

They know good food, but there weren’t a whole lot of options. Most people were hesitant to open this kind of concept because they weren’t sure the community would be interested. 

JH: Yet you survived the worst 2020 had to offer.

Chef Pushkar: Yes, we were open for a few short weeks before the statewide shutdown order. Thankfully, we made a buzz. People wanted our food. We pivoted to takeout. And put curries on the menu. 

I didn’t want to put curries on the menu. This isn’t an Indian restaurant, it’s a flavor restaurant. But we make an incredible butter chicken. People ordered it in droves. I’d say it paid our bills for months.  

H: You mention curries, after all, you are from India. What made you passionate about food and flavor? How has that informed your cuisine?

Chef Pushkar: My father served in the Indian military. So growing up we traveled and lived all over India. The north is as different from the south as China is from India. The food, flavors, techniques, language, are all so varied. I had a natural affinity to food and flavors. I learned my love of cooking from my mom. But I was curious about all the different techniques I saw being used. I would try to do them myself by telling my parents about them in the third person so they didn’t know it was me who was doing it. 

JH: You mention curries, after all, you are from India. What made you passionate about food and flavor? How has that informed your cuisine?

Chef Pushkar: My father served in the Indian military. So growing up we traveled and lived all over India. The north is as different from the south as China is from India. The food, flavors, techniques, language, are all so varied. I had a natural affinity to food and flavors. I learned my love of cooking from my mom. But I was curious about all the different techniques I saw being used. I would try to do them myself by telling my parents about them in the third person so they didn’t know it was me who was doing it. 

JH: (Laugh) What? You didn’t want them to know?

Chef Pushkar: I was just so excited but being a chef was a foreign concept to me and my family. 

JH: How foreign?

Chef Pushkar: Well the first time I left India was for culinary school in Switzerland. I landed and tried smoked salmon. It was revolting, like nothing I ever tried. But I said to myself I am here to learn. To grow. To experience new flavors. After a few weeks I learned to like it and today I make an excellent smoked salmon. 

JH: So you expand your palate and skills?

Chef Pushkar: Very much so. Each place I went I learned new flavors and techniques. In Florida, I learned local seafood and citrus; in LA, I learned vegan and Mexican; in the Caymans; and in the Bahamas, I learned tropical bold flavors. My stint in the Middle East brought a whole new variety of spices and methods of cooking. I staged in Peru, and we named Stage as an homage to that touchtone experience. 

JH: You are well-traveled, Chef. 

Chef Pushkar: Flavor has afforded me a life I would have never known. 

JH: Incredible, what is it about flavor that you think changes the experience of those that taste it?

Chef Pushkar: Well, with my food. It’s the salty hits, then you get a little bit of sweetness. Then you might get a little sour and then spice. And then you try another dish, it’s almost like a party. And that’s when you go back for more bites. Cause you don’t understand what it is. So the complexity is there with lots of simple ways of putting it together. You don’t need a hundred ingredients or 15 gradients in a play to make a conflict. But with the right flavors, with the right amount of balance of texture and balance of

vices, you can create the incredible.

The varied complexity of it is fantastic. And then you go back for it and then you’d finish your meal and you’re like, it’s gone. And then he’d come back for it to understand. And that’s like the whole idea of my cooking. It’s like if you do an electrocardiogram, a speed line is dead. But if you have a lot going on, the line is all over the place. 

It’s a lot of fun. Do you know what I mean? It’s like a DJ, like how the mix beats. That’s how I look at the food and flavor. 

JH: You are changing lives?

Chef Pushkar: It’s that experience that brought me to Stage. I want to change lives. Our customers and our employees. 

JH: Explain. 

Chef Pushkar: Not only do I want our customers to experience an entirely new flavor experience. I want our employees to experience an entirely new restaurant experience. Gone is the negativity. If you are angry that passes into your food, your staff, your customers. I strive for positivity and extend that to our staff

At Stage, we offer full healthcare for our employees. We did that even with the pandemic. We want to ensure they can afford to care for themselves. We limit hours as much as we can so that people are not overworked. During the pandemic, we sought to keep our employees on as much as possible. You cannot have a family in this business, you cannot have balance in this business. We want to change that. 

JH: What you are talking about is revolutionary, isn’t it?

Chef Pushkar: Yes, Yes it Is. 

Stage distinguishes itself with nearly zero food waste. If something can be repurposed it becomes a future innovative addition to a food. Chef Pushkar sources fresh produce daily, from local farms and markets. Farm to table, fishmonger to table, ranch to table. The ingredients are holistic and carefully selected. Chef and I spoke at length about the passion he has for food and flavor. He is undoubtedly a rising star in the culinary world. One who invites everyone to join the flavor party and experience it for themselves.

Bon appétit !

https://www.stagepga.com/

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Privacy & Cookies Policy