Why She’s Interesting: Since opening her Lakewood restaurant in 2016 with business partner Jessica Parkinson, the veteran chef has created a cozy, intimate spot known for an impressive menu of small plates that Vedaa changes about every 10 weeks. As Salt gets ready to celebrate its fifth anniversary in July, the two-time James Beard semifinalist is cautiously optimistic during a time when, like so many other restaurants, her and her team have had to pivot and reinvent what they do because of COVID-19.
Menu Swaps: Come mid-January, Vedaa will unveil her 22nd menu. For her, it’s all about focusing on what ingredients are available, giving her customers something new to try and pushing herself. The current menu features eight vegetable dishes such as brown buttered turnips with radish and a celery root puree. “I get bored really easily. I just want to keep trying to outdo that last menu. What techniques can I use? What different elements can I put into play that I haven’t used before? So it’s more like a challenge for me as well.”
Honor Society: If Vedaa needed proof that her hard work ethic and boundless creativity were getting noticed, a text from a friend in 2018 that she had been nominated as a semifinalist for a James Beard Award — basically the Oscars for chefs — was almost too good to be true. She then went on to be nominated again in 2019. “I was blown away. I don’t know what I thought that first year. I was just like, Yeah, this is weird. But then this second year, I was like, Alright, alright. OK. That’s pretty cool.”
Cooking and COVID: Salt closed its doors for a short time last March and then reopened offering takeout and limited dine-in options. Though she remains resilient and upbeat, she’s also realistic. “The fact that we have as much takeout as we do is bittersweet to me. I want people in here eating on plates. That’s the whole point of a restaurant. How many times can you pivot or change your business model? Just to get through? And then at the end of that, is it so far gone from what you started? It leaves people insecure. It definitely leaves me insecure.”
Ink Master: Vedaa started getting tattoos when she was 16 years old and hasn’t stopped. One that holds a special place? A fox on her shin that reminds her of her father who recently died. “I got it shortly after that. It has nothing to do with my father, but it’s kind of meaningful in that respect.”
Mom and Me: Vedaa credits her mother for being her champion and confidante. “She’s my No. 1 supporter. She’s just kick-ass. She can have the mouth of a sailor but doesn’t look like any bad words will ever come out of her mouth and she has everybody fooled. She does all these things rolled up into one cute little package.”
Three and Out:
What’s making you laugh lately?
Comedian Tig Notaro. I love how dry she is. I love what she talks about. I think she’s just a genius when it comes to comedy and life.
What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
I love Celine Dion. She’s such a confident performer. Music can heal you and I think she has that.
What is one new hobby or activity you’ve picked up in the last year?
I’ve been trying to draw a little bit more, because I stopped doing that a long time ago. One thing that I want to do is play the drums though.