By Leigh-Ellen Romm
n summer 2017, Deepa Shridhar ’09 set the parking brake for her Puli-Ra food truck in Manchaca, Texas. Serving Indian food with a Southern spin and enjoying cool cider in the heart of Texas are the things of Deepa’s dreams. Those dreams, however, weren’t part of a degree plan.
Deepa majored in film studies and minored in French at Austin College, picturing a future of making films, but it is Chef Deepa who is well known and highly regarded on the culinary scene in and around Austin. She has delighted foodies through her Indian bakery, then a pop-up supper club, and next, a partnership with Texas Keeper Cidery.
“Puli-Ra has found such a great partner atTexas Keeper Cidery,” Deepa said. “They believe in all the same things we do: source impeccably; take familiar ideas and rework them to something new. All types of people come out to Manchaca. We get hipsters, good ol’ boys, people of color, and all kinds of Texans. Everybody loves boudin, and everybody loves a quality drink—so it works.”
Deepa talks of how she found her way into the kitchen. “I was incredibly lucky,” she said. “I think professors at Austin College understood I was never going to be a classroom wunderkind. But they took time and patience sussing out what made everyone tick.
“Dan Setterberg, Professor of Communication Studies, (who died in 2010) encouraged me to go to Coorg, a remote place in India for JanTerm. And, he encouraged me to explore it by myself. I had thought I would be a filmmaker … but when I came back, all I really wanted to do was cook.”
If what you want to do is cook, but you don’t go to culinary school, then Deepa says it’s good to have fire in the belly—or in slightly less Southern terms: grit.
“The number one thing to have in my industry is tenacity,” Deepa said. “Many people will find many reasons for you not to pursue this highly volatile and creative field; but if you really believe that this is what you want to do, you go for it and commit to the difficulty.”
In the Tamil language, puli means fierce, like a tiger, and ra means friendly. Deepa is courageous and good-humored—serving the best of what she knows and keeping her dreams on the front burner. Discover Deepa’s latest venture.