The Amy Awards: Saraswathy Parthasarathy provides a taste of home

Flavor Temptations co-founder is recipient of a 2022 Amy Award
Saraswathy
Saraswathy Parthasarathy
Photo by Chris Hynes

Making the transition to college, Saraswathy Parthasarathy’s son, Gautam, wanted to be able to make the Indian food he had grown up eating. So Mom sent her son off with a masala box, a traditional set of often-used Indian spices. Problem solved.

But there was a new problem. “He has big hands,” Parthasarathy jokes about her son scooping too much of the spices into his food. He was adding too much turmeric here, too much cumin there, and his dishes weren’t turning out. “So I started putting together the spices in the exact measurements he needed so he’d be able to cook for himself and not just have to eat pizza all the time,” she says.

It worked. Parthasarathy quickly realized she could do the same for friends who requested her recipes but couldn’t restock their entire spice rack with a bunch of Indian spices. She started putting together kits, and a hobby turned into a business, Flavor Temptations, that she runs with her husband, Parthasarathy Sabniviss.

Well, the brand’s name was Ethnic Spicery at the outset, but Amy Gannon put the kibosh on that right away. Parthasarathy was part of a two-day workshop hosted by Doyenne around 2014, and Gannon convinced her to go with a name that would allow her to expand the business. “She told me, ‘Sara, you want to grow,’ — she’d always be waving her arms around whenever she spoke — ‘you want to have an aisle full of products.’ ”

Gannon was a huge influence on Parthasarathy, who counts her among many friends and mentors who helped her grow her small business. And it has grown: It went from offering two to three spice kits to more than a dozen, plus curry sauces and spice blends available on flavortemptations.com, Amazon and about a dozen Madison-area grocery stores. Parthasarathy and Sabniviss’ donations to food charities have resulted in more than 80,000 meals to fight hunger. They developed bulk spice packs and, prior to the pandemic, partnered with about 50 school districts that started serving lunch dishes like curry potatoes and chana masala using their products. In 2022, Flavor Temptations partnered with Madison Metropolitan School District for the first time. “The kids just loved it,” Parthasarathy says of a taste test they conducted at East and West high schools. “Many times you learn about culture first through food.”

Parthasarathy and Sabniviss came to the United States from India on Christmas Day in 1993. “We just had six suitcases, $3,000 and stars in our eyes,” Parthasarathy says. They had Gautam in tow, but their youngest, Kaamya, now 25, hadn’t been born yet.

Parthasarathy retired from a long career in IT in 2018. She left her corporate job at 10 a.m. and drove straight over to Flavor Temptations’ office in the Madison Enterprise Center on South Baldwin Street to keep working. It’s still a passion project, even 10 years later.

Sadly, Sabniviss and Parthasarathy lost their 37-year-old son, Gautam, to cancer this year. Knowing he’s who inspired the business helps keep his memory close.

Andrea Behling is editor at Madison Magazine.

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