Founder of Indian eateries in the United States Lavanya Mahate has launched the RISE Culinary Institute, a training kitchen and school located at Saffron Valley’s Sugar House in Salt Lake City to address the shortage of labor in Utah’s restaurant industry.
People “are willing and able to work and just need the resources or the training to get a job in the culinary field,” she said. The institute will select through an online application process, refugees and new residents for a free hands-on culinary training program. Trainees will be placed with restaurants for six months in a paid internship position. Depending on the internship, they might get hired full-time by the restaurant.
“The true success of any business is when they can be successful to provide for themselves and their employees, and also contribute to the community and help build community,” Mahate said. “My purpose has kind of evolved since then. First, it was always serving people. It’s come to be more than that. Now, [it’s] about helping people explore their potential, as I explore my own,” she added.
Mahate, who owns the five Saffron Valley restaurants in Utah, has long practiced the art of Indian cuisine. “It’s slow cooking. It’s not a one-and-done or one-pot cooking. It’s the layering of flavors: Where you start with sautéing the onions, ginger and garlic and then you layer in your spices, vegetables and finishing ingredients. You develop flavor through the slow cooking.”
Born in India, Mahate immigrated to the U.S. and moved to Utah in 2001 after finishing a master’s degree in mass communication. In 2011, she opened her first Saffron Valley location, at 1098 W. South Jordan Parkway in South Jordan.
“What was different about Saffron Valley is that we brought food from the north, south, east and west,” she said. “Up until that point, there was no restaurant [in Utah] offering all different regional foods from India.”