TURNING UP THE HEAT. Chef Jeff San Diego (l.) and General Manager Don Riccardi with their tandoori oven at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
It reaches temperatures of around 800°F and produces exquisitely flavored and textured delicacies impossible to duplicate with other cooking methods. For the Santa Clara (CA) Convention Center, a recently installed tandoori oven has been a blazing success in building business not just with ethnic Indians and Pakistanis but with the cosmopolitan foodies of nearby Silicon Valley.
The Convention Center's kitchen installed the oven—a brick-and-clay unit that is a staple of kitchens on the Asian subcontinent—in May to cement the facility's relationship with a major convention event.
Since then, the Center has found to its delight that word of the oven—reputedly the only one in a convention facility in the country—has spread among the Indian and Pakistani communities in the area, as well as among the affluent, worldly professionals who populate Northern California's Bay Area.
"It has just mushroomed," reports Jerry McCarthy, general manager of the foodservice operation for management services provider Aramark Corp. "We're now getting wedding business from the Indian and Pakistani communities around here."
The oven, which cost a relatively modest $8,000 to purchase and install, was procured to provide authentic tandoori cuisine made onsite to attendees of the annual TiEcon convention, an event that attracts some 2,000 attendees, many from the Asian subcontinent.
"Authentic cuisine is important for these people," McCarthy says, "so, rather than bringing food in from local restaurants, we thought putting in our own tandoori oven would provide the crowing touch."