A samosa is a savory Indian pastry. It has nothing to do with France, Napa or grapes.
But, apparently, saying the word “samosa” is hard for the meat, potato and day-Champagne drinkers here in the Midwest.
“It’s samosas. Not like mimosas. A lot of people would say that at the food truck: ‘Can I order three mimosas,’ and I’m like, ‘That would be illegal.’ ” says Suzy Singh, owner of Suzy’s Samosas and soon-to-be first-time Chow Town headliner.
Best known nationally as being one of the final four contestants in Season 2 of Fox’s “MasterChef,” Singh works as the culinary director/creative chef for Ashyana Banquets & Catering, and contributes weekly to WGN radio. Although she says that she still gets recognized at least once a day, these days it’s her samosa catering business and food truck Suzy’s Samosa’s that has given her the real clout. Her food — a fusion of her classic South Asian Indian heritage and American upbringing — helps her stand out as a chef.
As a child, “I would go to lunch with Indian food and trade for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And it’s a new generation,” says Singh. “When you look at South Asians who are born in the United States, most of us are first or second generations, so we need that Indian flavor, but with an American twist. I feel like I am doing that with the samosas.”
Singh says that she is not intimidated by the crowds or heat that may make running fryers on high at the Grant Park three-day music festival unsavory; she is confident they will be prepared for whatever comes their way. “It’s a big feat,” agrees Singh, but mostly she was relieved to be invited. “The competition was high. There were so many restaurants that applied and only 30 to 40 got in as vendors.”
And then, she says, the application process is only one part of the Chow Town labyrinth. “There is a lot,” Singh says. “You have to talk to the equipment guys — the propane guys — and you have to set up your employees. We’re hiring people, not taking on volunteers. We’re working with fryers. And, it’s nuts because we are making 50,000 hand-stuffed samosas. To prepare, we’re doing about 2,000 a day — and we rented a 48-foot rig to house these samosas. It’s a massive freezer truck.”
As for the menu, Suzy’s Samosa has just about everyone covered. “We have the vegan samosa, which is sweet pea and potato with fenugreek,” Singh says. “Another samosa we are also featuring is our butter chicken samosa. Otherwise known as ‘the addiction.’ It’s butter and chicken ... what can I say. The third samosa for our lineup is the apple pie samosa with a butterscotch caramel sauce.”
And the price is right. Hungry festival goers will be able to grab the vegan samosa for $3, and the butter chicken or two apple pie samosas for $4. Singh’s Chow Town tent also will feature a chutney booth.
Although food is just one part of the equation to Lollapalooza 2012, Singh says that she can see the correlation between being a chef and a rock star. “Chefs are the new rock stars. Food is essential, but to create is an art form. When you see [Georges Auguste] Escoffier and [Marie-Antoine] Careme, and what they have done in the culinary industry, they’ve created that foundation. We’re only expanding upon what they’ve created. And I believe that chefs have always been rock stars. Now the limelight is just on us in this moment, it will move on to something else. But in this moment, we have to take full advantage of teaching people how to cook.”