Rasika Venkatesa’s love for food was fostered by spending time in the kitchen with her grandmother, who taught her what it means to cook with love and intention. Originally from Chennai, India, Venkatesa attended Manipal University to study hotel management. During school, she traveled to San Francisco to intern at Alexander’s Steakhouse under Chef Marc Zimmerman, and spent six months interning at Hugos in Sydney, Australia. She fell in love with the hustle of the kitchen, and after graduating in 2019, Venkatesa moved back to Northern California, this time to Yountville, to accept a job at The French Laundry. She credits her time at The French Laundry for establishing her cooking foundation. There, she learned the patience and humility needed to run a successful kitchen.
In December 2019, Venkatesa moved to San Francisco, joining the Mourad team to work the fish station. She felt at home at the Moroccan fine-dining establishment; some of her favorite memories are of cooking butter chicken for family meals. When the pandemic hit, Venkatesa kept busy, making 400 meals a day for the charity Family House along with Mourad’s Executive Chef Mike Daley. She worked the line at Rich Table, and when Mourad reopened in 2021, Venkatesa returned, rejoining the team as sous chef. In 2022, at just twenty-four years old, she was promoted to chef de cuisine. Venkatesa, still inspired by her grandmother’s cooking, brings her south Indian roots to the Mourad menu, with dishes like her braised beef cheek, coconut-tamarind-chile arbol pureé, and fried okra.