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Chef Kushagra Verma: From Mumbai Grilled Cheese to American Luxury

St. Louis (USA), June 4: The culinary world is set to experience a groundbreaking transformation with the arrival of Chef Kushagra Verma at Black Salt, the latest addition to a distinguished group of pan-Asian restaurants known for their innovation and excellence. Black Salt, with its critically acclaimed establishments across the region, now welcomes Chef Verma, whose extraordinary journey through the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants has uniquely prepared him to initiate and lead this new prestigious venture.

Chef Verma’s culinary story is one of passion, precision, and innovation. Although he received his formal education at the Culinary Institute of America (the world’s most well regarded culinary educational institution), Chef Verma discovered a love for cooking from his family at home in New Delhi. Steeped in Indian roots, he took up a position at Junoon working with Chef Bhardwaj. His time at the famous New York City Indian restaurant came to define his culinary philosophy, blending traditional Indian flavors with avant-garde techniques.

This was notably showcased during the high-profile Junoon pop-up event at Santa Fe Woodstock, where Chef Verma’s leadership and innovative approach to using local ingredients introduced a new audience to modern Indian cuisine. His involvement in events such as the City Harvest Taste of Asia, where Junoon’s dishes highlighted the fusion of traditional techniques and modern presentations, further cemented his role as a culinary innovator. From there he moved up to the renowned Jean-Georges and had to adapt his work to the highest standards of the culinary arts.

He excelled in every station from garde manger to poissonnier, eventually leading the rotisseur station. His rigorous attention to detail and commitment to quality were instrumental in the success of the eponymous restaurant, earning the restaurant critical acclaim and a stellar reputation in the global culinary scene.

One of the earlier and most colorful landmarks in Chef Verma’s storied past is the grilled cheese truck which once roamed the crowded streets of Mumbai – Fromagerie. The gourmet comfort food brand was a tentpole feature for many prestigious events and festivals, like the Spoken Fest, VH1 Supersonic Festival 2019, Pernia’s Pop-Up Show, TED Talks, and Lil Flea. These events drew large crowds and featured stellar artist lineups, providing a dynamic platform for Fromagerie to delight food enthusiasts with its innovative offerings.

The success of Fromagerie’s brand expansion event at these pop-ups was phenomenal. People specifically followed the brand from one event to another, eager to experience the unique grilled cheese creations that Chef Verma and Chef Nuzha had meticulously developed. His signature dishes, like the Chunky Monkey and the 4 Cheese Chilly Toast, were not only a gastronomic delight but also a testament to his ability to blend bold and comforting flavors perfectly. 

Chef Kushagra Verma’s crucial role at Fromagerie during it’s most important phase of development not only showcased his culinary brilliance but also his talent for brand building and customer engagement. The strategic approach to marketing through social media and participating in popular events with high footfall turned every outing into a significant opportunity for brand visibility and customer interaction.

Despite the long queues at these events, the team’s focus on quick and friendly service allowed them to connect with many of their patrons, providing invaluable feedback that fueled continuous improvement and innovation. This experience at Fromagerie not only honed Chef Verma’s culinary and management skills but also deepened his understanding of creating and sustaining a brand in the competitive food industry. 

As Chef Kushagra Verma steps into his role at Black Salt, the anticipation around the restaurant’s expansion is palpable. Black Salt has announced plans to open new locations in Creve Coeur and South City, aiming to broaden its culinary horizon with a pan-Asian menu that interlaces Indian fare with elements from Japanese, Thai, and Chinese cuisines. This expansion follows the success of their Chesterfield location, which has quickly made its mark by being named one of the best new restaurants of 2023.

The new Creve Coeur location is expected to open around April or May at the shopping center on Olive Boulevard. This venue will echo the aesthetic and culinary standards of the original, with decor that maintains earthy, modern tones consistent with the Black Salt brand. A unique feature of the expansion is the planned “cloud kitchen” in South City, which will focus on delivery and takeout options, catering to a broader St. Louis area.

These expansions are part of Black Salt’s commitment to delivering high-quality dining experiences that combine traditional flavors with modern twists. As Chef Verma leads these ventures, his expertise and innovative approach are set to redefine pan-Asian dining in St. Louis, promising exciting new dishes and a continued emphasis on culinary excellence.

Diners can anticipate a culinary journey that combines the rich flavors of Asian cuisine with unexpected twists, creating a dining experience that is both familiar and thrilling. Under his leadership, Black Salt aims to not only continue its legacy of excellence but also to push the boundaries of what is possible in the culinary world.

“We are incredibly excited to have Chef Verma lead our team at Black Salt,” says a spokesperson for the restaurant. “His proven track record of culinary excellence and innovative spirit is exactly what we need to launch our new location in St. Louis. We believe that his unique approach will bring a fresh perspective to our menu and offer our guests an unforgettable dining experience.”

As Chef Verma steps into his role at Black Salt, his high-level understanding of the nuances of Asian cuisine, a commitment to sustainability, and a passion for culinary innovation. His approach to integrating local ingredients and engaging with the community is expected to resonate well with the values of the St. Louis dining scene.

Chef Verma’s vision for Black Salt goes beyond the kitchen. He plans to actively participate in the community, leveraging food as a universal language to build relationships and celebrate cultural diversity. “At Black Salt, we’re not just serving food; we’re creating an experience that brings people together,” Chef Verma explains. “Each dish tells a story, and each meal is an opportunity to explore new flavors and traditions.”

As Black Salt prepares for its grand opening event, the culinary community and diners alike are eager to witness the magic that Chef Verma will bring to the table. Further events that Black Salt plans to conduct will spread the same joy that Chef Verma brought to Mumbaikars with Fromagerie to St. Louisans. With his extensive experience and innovative approach, Chef Verma is not just continuing the legacy of Black Salt; he is setting a new standard for what it means to experience world-class dining.

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