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Omaha Magazine

A Taste of Home: Chef Ashish Sathyan Combines Kerala Flavor with Local Connections

May 23, 2023 03:29PM ● By David Zorko
dining profile kinaara Omaha Magazine June 2023

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Listen to this article here. Audio Provided by Radio Talking Book Service.

Even when the doors are closed you’ll often find a chef working behind the locks. Approaching those doors, hefting a box of supplies toward the warm scent of fragrant spices, is where Chef Ashish Sathyan connected with Omaha Magazine as warm rays pierced the broad windows of his restaurant—Kinaara Indian Cuisine at Regency. Amid the restaurant’s fresh and inviting interior, Chef Sathyan spoke of the past, the present, and the future. 

Sathyan’s childhood home and base of inspiration is the coastal Indian state of Kerala, where beef, coconuts, and fresh fish reign as essential cooking elements. He recalled his first interaction with food—describing neighborhood children bringing ingredients from home and cooking together over a shared fire. No less significant were yearly visits from relatives outside of Sathyan’s home state. It was at these times his grandmother would prepare meals that differed from his usual fare, and Sathyan was always eager to lend a hand in the kitchen. 

He recalled, “food [was] always involved in my childhood.”  

Not only was cooking a part of growing up, but so was farming and fishing. His family home had tapioca, a Kerala signature, growing along with other vegetables, like okra and eggplant. The harvest was to the benefit of the entire community. 

“Everybody [would] grow [something] different and [you’d] share it” he said, and adding his homeland remains the focus at Kinaara. 

Sathyan brings familiar Indian offerings like butter chicken, and makes sure to represent his childhood home through menu options like fish pollichathu, featuring the state fish of Kerala, karimeen (a species of cichlid). This fresh water fish is swaddled in a banana leaf, treated with pollicha masala, and grilled until tender. 

In a callback to his family farm, Sathyan likes to pull from Nebraska’s local bounty saying, “Kerala food is my favorite. That’s what I [grew] up eating, seeing my mom and my family cook. [It makes] me happy using the local ingredients, [to make] Kerala food, serve [it] to a customer, and see [a] happy face.”  

However, cooking wasn’t always Sathyan’s main passion—that belonged to his love of cricket, the bat-and-ball game popular in England and India. Sathyan’s cooking schedule allowed him to spend time on the pitch, where he played semi-professionally for the Winner Boys club, a team he cheered for growing up. Thankfully for the eventual benefit of Kinaara’s diners, Sathyan’s neighbor Jose Chakho, a server at the Taj Hotel, led Sathyan to the kitchen and ultimately a career in the culinary arts. Sathyan spent time at Kerala’s Consult Inn culinary school in 2002 and 2003, where he was trained in Italian, French, and Indian cuisine.

He then moved through higher end hotels, including the One&Only Royal Mirage in Dubai, which Forbes christened a Dubai “best hotel oasis” in 2022. Sathyan had worked various jobs before deciding to obtain his visa and a one-way plane ticket to New York City. There, he began another adventure at Indian and Thai restaurant, Citrus, in 2012 as an appetizer chef for two years. In 2014, Sathyan decided to depart for the green pastures of the Midwest, cooking at a local Indian restaurant before a two-and-a-half year stint at The Taj in Omaha.

A key shift in possibilities occurred when Sathyan was approached by Mai Thai owner Preeda Joynoosaeng with a partnership opportunity—opening Indian Bowl in Omaha’s Blackstone District where Sathyan could create, as he says, his “own recipes and style.” 

The fast-casual restaurant only lasted a year, from 2018 to 2019, but becoming a stakeholder made a lasting impression on Sathyan. The experience led to confidence in taking calculated risks, before becoming his own boss with the opening of the original Kinaara location in Millard. Yet, right as the ribbon was cut in 2020, the global pandemic struck. 

Sathyan quickly converted Kinaara’s main dining area into a parking lot full of satisfied drivers picking up their bundles of curries, biryanis, and naan. This timely pivot, and the warm reception to the even warmer flavors of Sathyan’s cuisine, allowed Kinaara to maintain a foothold until mandates were lifted. The community’s support never wavered, and Sathyan’s dream blossomed into to the current iteration of Kinaara in Regency. His business partner and wife, Kim, is often seen greeting diners—and is a proud partner and advocate of her husband’s dishes. 

“I’m like Ashish’s hype man, he likes to be modest, but no, he is so talented,” Kim said. 

Sathyan, in turn, is grateful to Kim for her evaluation of his dishes stating, “If [Kim] says it’s good [then] it’s true. She’s got a really good taste palate.”  

Kim is far from chef Sathyan’s only fan; hungry diners, and those involved in Omaha’s rich food scene, have taken notice as well. 

This includes the host of the popular “Restaurant Hoppen” Omaha food podcast, Dan Hoppen.
“Ashish is, in my opinion, one of the most talented chefs in Omaha. The flavors he creates are so unique and unlike any in the city. [His food] is absolutely delicious,” Hoppen noted. “Each time you visit Kinaara, your taste buds get another stamp on their passport.”

While Sathyan enjoys the high praise, his outlook remains grounded—and enriched—by his past. 

“I want to highlight more Kerala cuisine…keep it simple, and showcase the best experience I [can] provide,” he affirmed. 

Dave Zorko is the host of the Faturday Omaha podcast and radio show. Visit for more information.

This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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