Meet Executive Chef Melinda Quirino, who has been at the helm since the cafe opened in 2003. Prior to joining the museum, Melinda led the kitchens at Hotel Nikko Restaurant, Cafe American, and Chez Moi.
We tagged along as she shopped for the cafe menu at the Heart of the City Farmer’s Market at United Nations Plaza, a few steps from the museum.
What are you excited about for the fall season?
Oh, fall is when you get beautiful root vegetables. Kabocha and apples come out in fall, too, of course.
How often do you shop at the market?
As often as possible. As a chef, I like to use seasonal produce. It’s good for our customers to have fresh food! I like to support the farmers, too.
What’s the most popular item at Cafe Asia in the fall?
Soup! Everyone likes warm food in the cold weather. Like coconut soup, and I make it with kefir lime leaves and lemon grass that I find here at the market. There’s also a wild salmon burger people love. I serve it with sweet potato fries and lemon grass aioli.
Do the exhibitions ever inspire your menu choices?
Oh, yes! For the Maharaja exhibition, I’m making chutney with kumquat, figs, and fresh pineapple. Also, we have Kashmiri kari korma—a leg of lamb braised in red pepper Masala sauce, served with roasted cauliflower over basmati rice. I made a similar dish this past summer with chicken instead of lamb. You know, with Asian food, it’s diverse, so you can make it fresh and new every day. The café is especially nice in the fall season—you should come in!
Photography by Jennifer Yin