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(Image: Kukree Facebook)

Celebrated chef goes from Food Network to Four Wheels

Aarthi Sampath has a serious culinary pedigree. She was the chef de cuisine at a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City. She dominated multiple Food Network cooking competitions, winning "Chopped" and besting legendary chef Bobby Flat in a biryani battle on "Beat Bobby Flay".

Now, she runs...a food truck!

"Food in the fine dining world is very expensive and ingredients are, of course, always of the best quality," said Sampath. "Then for the customers it's even more expensive because we're adding the tablecloth, the wine, etc. So, I still wanted to cook the same way, very high quality ingredients, provide a very nourishing meal. But on the other hand, strip away the other things."

Sampath and her business partner Shilpi Gupta, are the co-founders of Kukree. Gupta left Amazon to get into the food world. Sampath's world is food, and she knew Seattle was the place she could really make her mark.

"When I first came to Seattle and I visited a couple of farmers markets, I just loved it. The produce is of supreme quality, the quality of meats...and I saw that the market was growing exponentially," explained Sampath.

Kukree stands out from the crowd because they serve up something you don't typically find on a food truck, grain bowls. The goal is to provide folks with a fresh, healthy lunch option.

"As chefs we always tend to cook with more fats, more starch," she said. "Just make it delicious without thinking about what actually goes into the dish. So it was a very conscious effort and to bring a change in my own lifestyle I thought I should take the plunge into doing healthier food."

The dishes may be packed with nutrients, but they're also packed with flavor. Think Asian Hanger Steak, soy-marinated steak with cherry kimchi and miso cauliflower. Or Summer Chicken, coriander chicken with lemon harissa and marinated peaches.

Each bowl is personal to Sampath, a snapshot from her culinary journey. And the response from diners has been so good it's got her and Gupta thinking about what's next. They view the truck as a test kitchen for a future Kukree brick-and-mortar restaurant, hopefully several of them. Their vision is 'fine casual'. Delicious food in a relaxed atmosphere.

"You want to walk in, have a great meal, then walk out in whatever you want to wear, and it's not burning [a hole] in you pocket," said Sampath.

For now though, to enjoy the flavors of Kukree you'll have to seek out the truck. It's worth the trip.