If there is one chef responsible for putting Tennessee on America’s culinary map, it is surely Raji Jallepalli. Raji Jallepalli died at her home in Memphis, TN on January 27th, 2002 at the age of 52. Raji was the owner of Restaurant Raji in Memphis and the executive chef of the Indian restaurant Tamarind, located in Manhattan. She designed her food for today’s lifestyle: healthy, light and exploding with flavor. She believed in the discipline of French techniques, combining them with the exotic treasures of spices from her Indian heritage, along with the freshness, simplicity and innovation of modern American cooking.
Raji originally started out studying microbiology and had a successful career running diagnostic tests in endocrinology. But her love of food, the haunting flavors of India, and a curiosity about French cooking techniques redirected her interests from the medical lab to the kitchen. In 1989, Raji opened The East India Company in Memphis, serving what she calls "Franco-Indian" food. At first, Raji's patrons were challenged by the restaurant's identity - people came in expecting curries, and she wanted it to be eclectic French. In time, they began to not only understand her cooking style, but admire it.
Raji Jallepalli was nominated twice for a James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast region, and she was featured as a guest chef in many James Beard Foundation dinners. Raji was also invited to participate as a guest chef for the prestigious Masters of Food and Wine event at Highlands Inn in Carmel, California Articles about Raji Jallepalli have appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Elle, Bon-Appétit, Gourmet, Southern Living, Travel and Leisure, and Food Arts, to name a few. She was also featured in the Great Chefs series, appeared on TV Food Network programs, as well as on CNN.
Raji was the key-note-speaker at the 1998 graduating ceremonies of the Disney Culinary Institute. In 1999 she was one of the honored guests at the Kellogg's Institute in Michigan State University. As the part of millennium celebrations on January 1, 2000, The White House honored Raji, along with other notables in their field, as visionaries into the 21st Century in their "Imagine the Future" program. This event was covered live on C-Span. Raji's book, Raji Cuisine: Indian Flavors, French Passions,is published by HarperCollins.