Saffron Nola, is the culmination of the Vilkhu family’s lifetime of passion for culture and food. Their James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant in 2018 was hard earned after gracing the New Orleans community with a catering business for 26-years and a pop up restaurant for 6-years. In its second year, Saffron Nola continues to garner accolades and charm guests with food and hospitality.
The vision was born from husband and wife team, Arvinder Vilkhu and Pardeep Vilkhu whose journey immigrating from India to New Orleans inspired the joy of marrying their heritage with New Orleans tradition and ingredients. Saffron’s menu is Indian at its core with influence spanning the globe from Chef Arvinder's experiences. Following in his father’s footsteps, Ashwin Vilkhu, Head Chef & Beverage Director, uses the same tradition and nuanced flavors to modernize Indian food and create Saffron’s culinary-focused cocktail menu. Similar spices and ingredients can be seen across the food and beverage menus, creating a cohesive guest experience and offering elevated riffs on classic cocktails.
The Vilkhu’s mission is to communicate the evolution of Indian Cuisine by making it accessible to guests on a modern stage . Like their dining table at home, the menu is designed for sharing and incorporates things they love from both India and New Orleans. While immigrating to the US, the Vilkhu family was exposed to the bounties of Louisiana, and more importantly, how food underscores the rich culture and community that makes New Orleans so special. Their immediate love and respect for their new home can be seen in Saffron’s use of fresh local ingredients like gulf fish, gulf shrimp, oysters, gumbo, charcuterie, and more; all while using Indian techniques and spices to spotlight the bounties of their local farm partners.
The Vilkhu’s personal touch and care for the guest experience is immediately evident upon welcome. Every detail of the design and conceptualizing of the space is purposeful to create a unique dining experience. However, the most important aspect of the experience is the superior service and hospitality that makes you feel like you are part of the Vilkhu and Saffron family.
Arvinder 'Dickey' Vilkhu - President & Executive Chef
Founder of Saffron nola & Saffron Caterers, 40 years in the Food & Beverage industry starting his career in the hotel and private club industry in India & New Orleans, Louisiana. Arvinder’s passion for hospitality started at the age of 8, while being exposed to his elders’ devout and worldly cooking. As a child he was infatuated with the dining table and execution of a meal, always ensuring everything was perfection. Arvinder came from three generations of engineers and was the only one to pursue a different career path. He enrolled in the Institute of Hotel Management in New Delhi and graduated in 1977. Arvinder was recruited from college to work in Food and Beverage Management at the Maurya Hotel and later moved on to join the Taj Group of hotels, where he had the opportunity to train in the kitchen under chefs of various nationalities. In 1984 he and his wife, Pardeep, moved to the United States, leaving everything he knew behind, to run the Food and Beverage department of the InterContinental Hotel in New Orleans. A few years later he was offered a position as General Manager of the elite Pickwick Club est. 1887, a private social club in the heart of downtown New Orleans. All of his training led him up to this point. Arvinder ran a tight ship for 31 years, focusing on hospitality with fine dining service while curating a staff to execute precision in all of their responsibilities. All the while, his passion for cooking was alive more than ever. In the early 90’s, his close friends encouraged him to cook for their private parties because they adored his food. This was the start of his professional cooking career and the catering company, Ashwin Inc., while maintaining his job at the Pickwick Club. The news spread like wildfire: an Indian Chef creating amazing, unique dishes that are not only Indian but worldly cuisine. He developed numerous recipes with Indian techniques and New Orleans ingredients, creating a database of truly original dishes. Arvinder and Pardeep began catering for friends, the Indian community, and New Orleans’ Uptown community members. They expanded to a catering facility, Saffron Caterers, due to the demand for their cuisine and services. With 40 years of food, beverage and overall hospitality experience, Arvinder is the President and Executive Chef of Saffron Nola.
Pardeep 'Deepi' Vilkhu - Vice President & Director of Operations
Master is Psychology by profession and Co-Founder of Saffron Caterers & Saffron nola. Pardeep grew up in Eldoret, Kenya into an entrepreneurial family. Her grandfather moved to Africa in the 1920s for business in sports and music. While business wasn’t her fancy, she was extremely passionate about food, and by the age of 8, she could already cook chicken curry. By 10 years old, she would wake up early and cook breakfast for her parents every Sunday. Her love for food grew as there were many different types of cuisines prepared in Pardeep’s home due to her family being world travelers. Pardeep’s mother and grandmother were fantastic cooks showing technique on how to make traditional Indian food, such as breads, stews, vegetables and sweets. In 1976 Pardeep’s entire family moved to New Delhi, India while she pursued her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Delhi University ’76, followed by her Master’s degree in Psychology ‘78. She married Arvinder and moved to New Orleans in 1984. She was offered a position, specializing in developmental disabilities with the State of Louisiana. After 26 years of a thriving career in psychology, she decided to retire to focus on Saffron Caterers full-time. From there the demand increased, and eventually expanded Saffron Nola to Uptown New Orleans. Pardeep is the Vice President & Director of Catering Operations.
Ashwin Vilkhu - Head Chef & Beverage Director
Ashwin’s obsession with the hospitality industry started at a very young age. One could say he was born into it being that his father was in the private club and hotel industry. He watched his mother and father entertain in their humble home and became fascinated by the way food, beverage and ambience could change an individual’s mood. He began to seek out jobs within the industry, starting as a dishwasher, bus boy, working his way up to Maître Di at the New Orleans Country Club restaurant. At the same time, he worked in the kitchen and at events at his parent’s catering company, Saffron Caterers. He learned the fundamentals of cooking and how to create an experience for guests. He bartended at nightclubs and went to business school during the day and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration 07’ and eventually a Master’s degree in Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism 15’ from the University of New Orleans. After his undergraduate degree he took a job in the wine and spirits industry, working for the spirits’ giant, DIAGEO, within the distributor. He rose very quickly and held positions in sales, regional management, national accounts, and marketing. A little less than a decade later, he felt very unfulfilled - something was calling him - the family business. He giftwrapped an idea (literally), which was his Master’s degree thesis, to his family on what Saffron could be, as he saw the potential and the following his parents’ catering business and pop up restaurant had. After much convincing, one year later a dream became a reality, as they found a space on the bustling Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans. Ashwin currently serves as Saffron’s Head Chef and Bar Director, while overseeing all departments.
Pranita Vilkhu - Director of Human Resources and Finance
Pranita’s love for food and the accompanying aromas began before she even came into the world, while her mother was pregnant with her preparing for the very first catering event of 200+ patrons. Throughout her upbringing, she participated in hosting guests at home with her family, helping her parents prepare the meals and set the tables to create comfortable and enjoyable experiences. One could gather hospitality was innate for this family. After Saffron Caterers began, Pranita worked various catering events and started to become interested in the business side of the operation. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Loyola University New Orleans 13’ and went on to work in the auditing department at a CPA firm. Throughout her undergraduate career, she served tables at Saffron’s one night a week pop-up restaurant and was able to share her passions and knowledge about the cuisine with guests. Pranita earned her Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of New Orleans 15’, which drew her to the field of Internal Auditing. Pranita is currently an Internal Auditor for Ochsner Health System, ensuring the organization has reliable controls in place to mitigate risks. Pranita is passionate about utilizing her internal auditing and quality assurance expertise to continuously enhance Saffron’s operations. She currently acts as the Director of Human Resources and Finance, as well as Kitchen Expo extraordinaire.