Canadian Cooks: Aman Dosanj, Kelowna BC

by Krlmagi

Aman Dosanj and her family create food with roots in India. They use the Okanagan's abundant produce and embrace diverse culinary influences at Poppadoms in Kelowna.

Aman Dosanj freely admits that she’s new to the culinary industry. The last two years have seen her taking over more of a role in the kitchen although she points out, "It’s been a rollercoaster with a lot of learning and a lot of burns but I’m definitely enjoying it.”

She and her family moved to Kelowna from England six years ago in order to open the restaurant. She started in the front of house at Poppadoms, but her degree in business management with a focus on marketing gave her a chance build the restaurant’s brand.

Aman Dosanj in the kitchen
Aman Dosanj in the kitchen

She (and her family) take a unique approach to Indian food. She explains that many chefs trained in India are taught to cook in a certain way and never deviate from it. The approach that Dosanj and her family take is different. They want to create food that is true to its Indian roots and then elevate that food to another level.


As an example, she talks about how they cook fish at the restaurant. They only use fish that’s OceanWise certified and Dosanj keeps the fish in whole fillets rather than dicing it to showcase its unique characteristics. They also cook vegetables separately and place them on the sauce rather than cooking them inside of it. Dosanj explains, "You get as much of the veggies as the sauce.”


The relationship that the restaurant has with local farmers is another strong source of inspiration for Dosanj. She says, “The fact that you can potentially have one of your farmers pick something for you in the morning that will be on your plate in the evening is quite a special thing.”

Knowing all of the farmers by name, seeing how they grow their produce and witnessing the love and care that goes into the produce means that, as a cook, she puts more care and attention into the dishes made with that produce.

The food that Dosanj creates is also inspired by a five week tour of India that her family took in 2013. Her family went from region to region taking cooking classes with housewives, family members and chefs. They explored regions they hadn't visited before and were particularly enamored of south India.


The way in which people approached food in south India was inspiring to Dosanj. She recalls seeing a woman fishing on the waterways of Kerala. The fish that woman caught is what she'd cook for dinner that evening. Dosanj says, "She grabbed a raw mango from the tree and some spices from her garden. It was so effortless."

Arctic char grilled in a banana leaf, tomato lentil chutney, local seasonal vegetables, basmati rice
Arctic char grilled in a banana leaf, tomato lentil chutney, local seasonal vegetables, basmati rice
Bengali Fish
Bengali Fish

Dosanj's creative process is exemplified by the long table dinners that they host at the restaurant. Each different menu is based around one region of India. These dinners are a chance for Dosanj to experiment and push the whole kitchen forward. The dinners are also a chance to gain customer feedback on her cooking. She adds, “I tend to be all over the place when it comes to my culinary experiments because I’m new to it. I want to learn and I want to try everything but this way I can focus myself."


Building relationships with farmers is important for Dosanj as part of the commitment to locally sourced ingredients. She explains that they’ve established a network of suppliers by visiting farmer’s markets and learning about different farmers and their growing practices. They're gaining more comfort with farmers and Dosanj is excited to keep building the relationships.

Dosanj hopes to embody a variety of traits in the kitchen. Multi-tasking in the restaurant's small kitchen is important and she tries to foster good communication in between the kitchen and the front of house. Her own experience in that role has given her insight into the overall operation of the restaurant. She is conscious of more than simply getting the food out.


Another important trait for Dosanj is the ability to constantly learn new things.  She mentions Chef Mark Filatow of Waterfront restaurant in Kelowna as an example and says, “Even though he’s done amazing things, he’s constantly thinking about food and he’s very humble in what he does.”

Dosa Sambar
Dosa Sambar

Culinary talent is the most important asset for a potential member of Dosanj's kitchen team. The other aspects of Indian cooking such as spice usage are things that she can teach, but talent is what will help her in her goal of elevating Indian cuisine.


Inspiration comes from many sources for Dosanj. Voluntary stages at various Okanagan restaurants are one of her major inspirations. She explains, "One stage was with Chef Jason Leizert at Salted Brick. I was helping him out and he actually taught me how to break down a pig’s head. I was also in the kitchen with Chef Jeff Van Geest and we did a cross-cultural experiment with the forno oven to see whether it was similar to a tandoor. The chefs of the Okanagan are very supportive and collaborative."


She also mentions being inspired by cookbooks including Bar Tartine and A Book of Ideas by Relais. Another major source of inspiration for her are the Michelin-starred restaurants in England. Dosanj points out, "They have some really cool ideas like doing a quail kebab rather than the traditional lamb kebab.”

Dosanj draws deep inspiration from working with her family. They’re all self taught and each family member plays a role at the restaurant, so that they all work well together as a unit.

Updated: 07/02/2015, Krlmagi
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Mira on 06/30/2015

This reads nicely. What made her move to Canada?

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