Chef Shachi Mehra of Tamarind of London

Shachi Mehra, executive chef of Tamarind of London, an Indian restaurant in Newport Beach - an area more familiar as MTV's Laguna Beach spinoff location - once held the same moniker as a friendly purple dinosaur.Chef Shachi Mehra

"Some of my closest friends call me Barney because I had purple hair in high school," she says.

Nowadays, her trademark is her food.

"When I prep for a new menu item, I am inspired by many things, for example, something I ate, a new ingredient, my travels, or something I read about or saw. I want to draw from all parts of India. By taking the traditions and classic dishes of Indian and mixing them with the main stream of India, Tamarind of London is not designed like a typical Indian restaurant."

"I am obsessed with chilies, especially green ones, dried and fresh. I love to experiment with them and add them to unexpected things, like Tamarind's chocolate cake, which has 2 types of chilies. The most recent one I discovered is the Fish Pepper-it's an heirloom pepper originally from the Baltimore and Maryland area. It has a spicy and bright flavor that really mellows when cooked," she says.

"I started out my career as a pharmaceutical sales rep. One day, I had a doctor's appointment. As I watched the doctor work, I decided I would never be as happy as he was 25 years from now. That was when my sister suggested culinary school. Another sales rep I worked with at the time mentioned his friend was a chef and I went into the restaurant. When the executive chef asked me if I wanted to come in and 'hang out' in the kitchen, that was when I was sure!"

Mehra has discovered that the kitchen is after all, more fun than a doctor's office. "When I prep for a night in the kitchen, I like to listen to certain types of music before dinner service. The more upbeat the better it prepares me for the night ahead and I get in the mood to cook!"

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