Back in 1965, the majority of households in America were cooking and eating at home. That number has since dropped by almost a third. Those remaining meals are now coming from packaged and frozen products as well as dining out, which we all know isn't good for us.
Aaya's Table was founded in 2019 with the goal of bringing authentic, healthy home cooking back into the modern American home. We were inspired by the way food and community came together in the blue zone regions around the world where the most centenarians reside. We want that same longevity and wellbeing to become synonymous with all of the red, white and blue of the United States.
Aaya's Table is dedicated to creating a paradigm shift in the way we look after ourselves. The rapid growth of our society means it's harder to get extended personal care from a physician and our healthcare system has become centered on intervention. Diet and exercise is a suggestion instead of a preventative priority. Even if you take the initiative, walking through the grocery store full of manufactured foods and hidden ingredients can be intimidating nevermind trying to become a plant-based chef overnight.
Our mission is to bridge the gap between healthcare and the home care with evidence-based lifestyle changes. We want to make your decision to follow a whole food, plant strong diet actually enjoyable and sustainable.
Eat Better, Feel Better
Founder, Head Kitchen Coach
Varun Ponmudi is the Founder of Aaya's Table, which provides culinary services to consistently and effectively follow a whole food, plant-based diet that can improve health, preventing and even reversing chronic disease.
Varun spent his earlier years as a product development engineer at medical device companies, including Globus Medical and Stryker. After nearly 10 years leading the development and launch of several devices, Varun grew concerned with the ineffectiveness of the healthcare system at preventing chronic diseases that led to patients requiring surgery with the very devices he was designing. At the same time, a growing interest in the science of nutrition shed light on how he could help further preventative care. Varun's journey took him into the food industry. He joined Beyond Meat's field marketing team, working evenings and weekends in addition to his corporate job. There his passion for helping people be healthier using their food choices was validated and inspired him to leave the medical device industry to found Aaya's Table.
Varun holds a Masters of Engineering in biomedical engineering from Cornell University. He also earned his Bachelors in biology at Cornell University from the school of Arts & Sciences.
Yoshi Rothman, M.D.
Dr. Rothman has a vision and keen desire to further modern medical practice through more comprehensive discourse on nutrition between doctors, dietitians and their patients. He is the Founder of Penn Culinary Medicine in Philadelphia, PA and co-founder of the Hand Up Youth Food Pantry in San Diego, CA.
Dr. Rothman received his B.A. in Molecular Biology from Pomona College, M.S. in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, and M.D. from the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a resident physician in general pediatrics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Raman Singhal, M.D.
Dr. Singhal is an internist with Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York. He received his medical degree from New York Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine and has been in practice for almost a decade. He is a strong believer in food as medicine and is excited to be able find innovative ways to coalesce modern medicine with whole foods, plant-based nutrition.
Jonathan Delp, RD, LDN
Jonathan is a Registered Dietitian for the US Department of VA Affairs. He has a drive and affinity for health promotion, recipe development and foodservice process improvement with specific interest in incorporating plant-based nutrition. Jonathan places emphasis on empowering people of all background with nutrition education and has worked extensively with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Philadelphia and also developed menus as part of medical nutrition therapy (MNT) case studies.
CuRe Clinical Support Team
Gina Spigonardo is a Clinical Specialist for the Culinary Reset (CuRe) program having originally joined the Aaya's Table team as an Intern. She graduated from Binghamton University in 2020 where she studied Psychology and Health & Wellness, and is currently pursuing a Master's in Public Health Nutrition at New York University. Gina has been vegan since 2018 and is passionate about sharing the benefits of a plant-based diet through nutrition education. Her goal is to leverage her expertise in Health Psychology to better address personal and societal barriers toward obtaining optimal health.
Program Research Associate
Danvy is a public health graduate student at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University concentrating in Community Health Sciences. With prior experience in healthcare, Danvy recognizes the obstacles numerous patients face to receiving care, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. She believes in empowerment through education and empathy to lead to better health outcomes. Combining her passions for plant-based nutrition and social justice, she aims to advocate for the health equity of underserved communities through dietary measures and prioritizing the “care” in healthcare.
Our Kitchen Coaches
A lifelong foodie, Dennis Gardon quit his nine to five desk job and enrolled in culinary school back in 2006. He has since been cooking professionally all across the country - San Diego, Las Vegas, New York and even Hawaii - both at restaurants and as a private chef. Along the way Dennis started being more mindful of his diet and lifestyle, first cutting out refined sugars and other processed foods before taking the next step to a more whole food, plant based diet. As a result, he has lowered his blood pressure and cholesterol, lost inches around his waist and probably added a few decades to his life.
"I feel invincible every day, from the second I wake up, 'til the second I close my eyes. The best part is, I am just getting started: every day I learn how to make plants more exciting and taste delicious. Cooking with only whole foods is like painting with only primary colors. It's challenging and rewarding.
Stephany Victoria is a self taught plant-based chef who is passionate about improving client lives through food. Shew grew up in a Dominican household, learning the motions of a kitchen through chopping, stirring and seasoning all sorts of traditional dishes. By age twenty, however, Stephany had become a vegetarian and began transitioning to eating a completely vegan diet. Eliminating animal products challenged Stephany to become more creative in the kitchen, which she found rather enjoyable. Rave reviews from friends and family that tried her cooking led to Stephany starting her own private cooking business. She specializes in gluten-free baking/cooking and prepares nutrient dense but flavorful plant-based meals for individuals all over New York City.
Chef James Grody graduated from the Culinary Institute Of America and has experience in a variety of restaurants, catering companies and hotels since the early 1990’s, including the Marriott Marquis in Time Square. With all that experience, James shows his warmth and penchant for helping others when he tells us about his favorite career highlight - teaching a dishwasher all the stations of the kitchen for months until he eventually became his sous chef.
Chef James employs a culinary style with a very simple philosophy: always work with the seasons and shop at the market to bring the freshest ingredients to the table with minimum fuss. Fresh speaks best!
Anthony Spino grew up in a traditional Italian family in the Midwest and learned to cook in his family's Italian restaurant, Anthony's, in Kansas City. He moved to New York in his early 30's and changed to a plant based lifestyle, stirring up the natural balance of the world he knew. Since then he has worked in some of the best vegan and vegetarian kitchens in New York City, including ABCV, The Cinnamon Snail and Matthew Kenney's Double Zero, learning a whole new kind of cooking. He also worked for America's Test Kitchen as a cooking instructor. Anthony is now going back to his roots, making those traditional Italian recipes in a whole new nontraditional way using plant-based ingredients; dishes so delicious they will knock the socks off even the biggest meat-lovers out there.
Cara Santamaria grew up learning to cook with her Italian family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After studying eastern nutrition and Ayurveda, Cara changed her own lifestyle to completely whole-foods, plant-based in 2008 and never felt better. To help inspire others to live their most healthy lives, she moved to New York and graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute as a chef in 2011. While she loves recreating traditional Italian recipes, she also enjoys perfecting plant-based dishes from cultures across the world, specializing in gluten-free ingredients.
Cara has worked with both individual and corporate clients throughout her years in NYC and Europe. When she's not cooking, Cara also works as an Ayurvedic nutrition consultant and Reiki master.
Ayurvedic Health Consultant
Ayurvedic Health Consultant
Austin Vanastic is an Ayurvedic Chef trained both at the Culinary Institute of America and the Bodhananda Vedic Institute as a chef and health consultant, respectively. His roots are even more diverse having started his career in film and TV for six years across New York City. It was only after falling ill with traditional medicine unable to help that Austin began his journey down the path of Ayurveda. His personal purpose is to help those who are suffering from various medical conditions to heal by providing Ayurvedic wisdom and Lifestyle Medicine, feeding them delicious foods all the while.
Smith et al. Trends in US home food preparation and consumption: analysis of national nutrition surveys and time use studies from 1965-1966 to 2007-2008. Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:45
Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zones: 9 lessons for living longer from the people who've lived the longest. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2012.