Made From Scratch

Made From Scratch

Chef Sedesh Boodram’s global perspective adds a dash of spice to his Birmingham restaurant

Words by Paige Townley
Photos by  Mo Davis, The Anvil Pub & Grill


A bowl of lobster mac and cheese may not be life changing for just anybody, but it was for Sedesh Boodram. To be fair, the meal was enjoyed at Per Se, a Michelin star restaurant in New York City run by the renowned Chef Thomas Keller, and it included his signature dish: oysters and pearls. “Everything about that meal was absolutely amazing—the ingredients, the way it was orchestrated on the plate, everything,” Sedesh says. “It completely changed the way I looked at food.”

Jason, Sedesh’s now-husband, had taken Sedesh to Per Se to celebrate his birthday, not knowing it would completely alter the trajectory of Sedesh’s career. At the time, Sedesh was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)—what had been his long-standing dream in life and brought him to the States from Trinidad and Tobago—but by the time the check came, he was already planning his shift into the culinary world. “I fell in love,” he adds. “I knew it was what I wanted to do.”

Though Sedesh’s passion for his future in food was extensive, his actual experience wasn’t. Living as a student in the city, he cooked at home quite a bit. “New York obviously isn’t the cheapest place to eat out every night, so I had to cook for myself,” he shares. But the only applicable experience he had was a part-time job as a manager of a bakery/catering company. So, Sedesh did the only thing he knew to do: he dropped out of FIT, enrolled in The French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), and moved to France to learn everything about savory French cooking. When the one-year program ended, he returned to New York and reached out to Keller himself. “I called and let him know how that meal changed my life, and I ended up getting a job there,” Sedesh says. “Starting my culinary journey at Per Se was almost poetic.” 

Sedesh refined his skills at Per Se before he was presented with another unexpected opportunity: to join Country, acclaimed Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s restaurant. Not only was it an opportunity for Sedesh to learn under another Michelin star restaurant chef, but it also provided a chance for him to try his hand at pastry. “I always wanted to dive into the world of pastry—my background working at the bakery in college piqued my interest in it,” he says. “Working there afforded me the chance to learn so much, and I started blending techniques of both savory and pastry to come up with new and different ideas.”

Another major life change came soon thereafter, when Sedesh and Jason adopted their daughter, Delilah. In becoming a dad, Sedesh had made the decision to leave Country. “The kitchen is very intense, and I felt like it was a disservice to myself to try to do both,” he explains. The newfound family then decided to leave New York for Birmingham, Alabama, where Jason is from, to be around family. Sedesh’s plan was to officially retire from the kitchen, but within a few months, he found himself back in it, working with Chef Chris Hastings at The Hot and Hot Fish Club. The biggest challenge: learning about Southern food and its ingredients. “I knew absolutely nothing about Southern food at the time,” Sedesh says. “And quite frankly, for a long time I didn’t care to know anything about it. But Chris showed me the culture and the soul and why it is what it is. That was eye-opening to me. I realized there is so much more to it than I thought.”

Sedesh immersed himself in Southern cooking while working with Hastings, including when Hastings won the James Beard Award and when he opened OvenBird a few years later. But after 10-plus years, Sedesh found himself looking for a new challenge. That new challenge came in the form of opening his own restaurant, The Anvil Pub and Grill. In opening his own space, an upscale British pub (a nod to his childhood in Trinidad and Tobago, which is part of the commonwealth of England), Sedesh drew upon his vast culinary experiences and his childhood. “I wanted to peel the layers back to where I came from and move that forward,” he says. “I’ve fallen back in love with Trinidad food, so I try to introduce ingredients I knew from home. But I have been exposed to so many different cultures, and while my dishes are heavy on the French technique, I want to present food in new and fresh ways.”

Right along with dishes that speak to Sedesh’s time in Trinidad, such as curried carrot soup, fish and chips, or sticky toffee pudding, there are also dishes influenced by his newfound home, the South. “It’s easy to just put food out on the table, but does it say anything about who we are and what we’re doing?” he says. “I learned that when I moved to the South. The dishes you create should have a story, something you’re trying to say. That’s what I want to do always.”


Warm Fall Salad

Recipe by Sedesh Boodram

Serves 8 people


5 delicata squash cut in circles with seeds removed, 40 pieces total 

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 sprigs thyme

Pinch of curry

Combine in a bowl. Toss with all ingredients and place on a sheet tray. Roast for 8 mins at 350ºF.

Maple Brown Butter Vinaigrette 

1 cup butter

1 small shallot, diced

4 tablespoons maple syrup

¼ cup sherry vinegar

Salt and pepper

Place butter in a pan on medium heat and let simmer until browned. Remove from heat and add shallots. Let cool for two minutes. Add all other ingredients. Keep warm.

Chestnut Puree

1 pound chestnuts, roasted and peeled (you can use store-bought chestnuts that are not in syrup)

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

4 cups heavy cream

Salt and pepper

Place chestnuts with stock and cream in a pot and let simmer for 10 minutes or until chestnuts are tender. Remove and puree with salt and pepper. 

Harissa (store-bought harissa is fine!)

4 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 2 oz.)

4 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 1 1/2 oz.)

½ teaspoon caraway seeds

¼ teaspoon coriander seeds

¼ teaspoon cumin seeds

1 stem mint leaves

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

2 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

Steep peppers in hot water for 15 minutes. Toast all seeds in a pan until fragrant. Remove peppers from liquid. Puree with all ingredients until smooth, adding some of the hot water that the peppers have been steeping in.  

Other Ingredients:

Apples, sliced

Endives, grilled (2 ¼ per plate)

Red sorrel

Pumpkin seeds, toasted

To plate:

Reheat squash in the oven. Splatter 1 tablespoon of harissa on a plate. Swipe a spoonful of chestnuts on one side of the plate. Top with 2 pieces of grilled endives. Arrange 5 pieces of squash on top. Add sliced apples and drizzle maple brown butter vinaigrette over everything. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and garnish with red sorrel.