Updated: Feb 1
By spreading awareness for inequality in fine dining this chef-turned-farm intern during the pandemic, became a mentor for underrepresented communities in the food industry while empowering women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and other minorities.
Photo by Alanna Hale
Chef Preeti Mistry, born in London and raised in the United States, earned classic culinary credentials by working in fine dining restaurants for many years. This led to holding Executive Chef roles at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco and Google HQ in Mountain View, CA. Preeti co-founded Navi Kitchen and Juhu Beach Club restaurants with their wife Ann Nadeau in Oakland. A contestant on Top Chef Season 6 and twice nominated by the James Beard Foundation as "Best Chef of the West'', Mistry also co-authored The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook. Since the pandemic, the couple has been living in the Russian River, Sonoma County, California. They have been making the best of it, hiking in the redwoods, cooking as well as volunteering on local regenerative farms. For a few months, Chef Preeti learned about agriculture in a small family-run farm in Sebastopol that specialized in hard-to-find Asian heirloom vegetables. This reconnection with the land has also been the opportunity for introspection and willingness to speak out about their experiences as a queer, brown, immigrant chef. Passionate, mission-driven, and activist Preeti Mistry, denounces the lack of diversity in fine dining. Undeniably, an industry dominated by white men that they deplore being built from a system permeated with oppression and hierarchy in which women, LGBT, and other minorities are not treated equally. During our conversation they talk about their dream project: an inclusive farm restaurant model centered on people of color and non-European cuisines. A place that would promote minorities while cooking accessible and flavorful food.
Welcome, Preeti to Chefs for Impact!
By Preeti Mistry as told to Chefs for Impact
What brought you to become a Chef?
“I’ve been cooking professionally for 18 years but at first I wanted to be a filmmaker. I did make one short film in 2002 and then I promptly moved to London, as my wife got an opportunity to move there. In Europe, I started to host dinner parties at my house and our friends pushed me to go to culinary school. I enrolled in Le Cordon bleu in London, then started working in fine dining and luxury hotels. When we moved back to SF in 2004, I was still enamored with fine dining. I wanted to work at the top places, which I did, and it was awful. I hated it because it was the most toxic environment. The Chef was screaming all day long. I couldn’t subject myself to feeling fear and lack of safety every day so I quit.
From running our own catering business with my wife to being the Exec Chef at the DeYoung Museum in SF, I was also Exec at the Google HQ for several months. I didn’t like the corporate world and the idea of feeding entitled people bothered me. They were entitled to eat what I cook as opposed to making a conscious choice to go to a restaurant. That’s how I decided to start my own restaurants Juhu beach club and Navi Kitchen to share my own cuisine: Indian street food. Since both restaurants closed in 2018, I’ve been writing, speaking, doing special dinners, and consulting work for restaurant groups. I’ve been working on myself and trying to figure out what I really want to do in my life.”