Through her brand, The Indian Table, Alfano teaches classes at the University of South Florida (USF) Sarasota-Manatee’s Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch. Her offerings range from “An Indian Holiday Feast” and “An Indian Sunday Brunch” to “Easy, Everyday Indian Food at Home.”
“When I first moved to Sarasota 10 years ago, there were hardly any noteworthy Indian restaurants in the area,” Alfano says, compared to her native Great Britain, where Indian cuisine has evolved over the years due to colonization and immigration. “I would host Indian dinner parties and Indian cooking classes in my home over the years. I finally found an excellent location and team with the USF culinary lab, which was the perfect base to start my official cooking classes.”
She began with a series of four classes and the feedback was instantly glowing. Alfano educates attendees about all of the basic spices in Indian cookery and teaches them how to incorporate the flavors into masterful ethnic dishes.
“Guests have commented that they have found the classes amazing, delicious, and informative. One commented that my passion for food was ‘infectious,’” Alfano says. “Most guests go back home with the motivation to stock their cupboards with fragrant spices and start cooking.”
Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Alfano grew up with her parents’ cuisine. Her family is originally from Gujarat, the region north of Mumbai, and they came to Britain from Uganda in October 1972 (following Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asian Indians living in the country). Alfano’s signature dishes include butter chicken, chicken tikka masala, samosas, lamb rogan josh, and biriyani.
“My first and most important mentor was my mother, who had a genuine, heartfelt passion for cooking. She grew up having to cook for her family of 10 siblings, so she was always sharing tips on making cooking easier and tastier,” says Alfano, who has her own young daughter now. “People would travel for miles to eat at my mother’s house. There was always delicious food on the table, a warm welcome, and lots of stories to share. I was my mum’s sous chef at around 3 years old, I believe.”
The process of cooking Indian food—which dates back at least 5,000 years—has a spiritual component to it, Alfano explains. It is taught in the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu scripture, that the intention of the person cooking the food is transferred to the food.
As Alfano says, “I believe my passion for cooking Indian food, and the love that goes into its preparation, is one of the reasons my guests thoroughly enjoy their Indian culinary experience.”
For more information on upcoming classes, visit theindiantable.com.