At Saeyri, we have loved sharing inspiring stories about jewelry & self-expression, while getting to know our community members’ unique journeys in life.
Food is such an essential cultural and human touchpoint. You can tell we’re passionate about it from our Masala and Tadka Collections and capturing the everyday warmth and joy of the spices we love to eat and cook with.
When we saw Preethi Aylard, Culinary Director of Kitava Kitchen, wearing the Masala Chai Earrings in her wedding photos, we were in awe. In November, we sat down with Preethi over Zoom to learn about her amazing pathway in the food world and her multi-faceted approach to self-expression.
Saeyri: Tell us about yourself, Preethi!
Preethi: I’m a Singaporean living in Oakland, CA. I LOVE eating, hiking, being in nature, and connecting with people through food. I am also an avid reader. I currently work as a Culinary Director for a clean casual restaurant group called Kitava.
Saeyri: How did you get into the food space?
Preethi: I got into food by accident. I was born and raised in Singapore, so I was always surrounded by delicious and diverse foods that I took very much for granted. Like many people that age, I knew what I didn’t want to do but not necessarily what I did. My sister had suggested I go to culinary school, and I always thought it was her way of poking fun at my lack of cooking skills — but I signed up and haven’t turned back since!
I ended up traveling and working in kitchens. I started as a line cook, became a chef, and ended up consulting for restaurants.
Saeyri: How did you start working with Kitava? What do you do as a Culinary Director?
Preethi: Bryan, the owner of Kitava, and I got connected through a mutual friend. I was excited by how it was not a marketing pitch, but a genuine and personal journey of cooking with whole ingredients to heal and nourish.
No two days are the same in my job. That keeps me on my toes and motivates me. Anything food related and restaurant operations related fall under my purview.
Saeyri: What does self-expression mean to you?
Self-expression means being unabashedly myself.
I see cooking as an opportunity to look after someone. I’ve also been dabbling with photography. I love the idea of capturing a moment and have it be sort of a placeholder to go back to. Capturing people as their own is my favorite, even though I have still got lots to learn.
I do love dancing, as well. My mom was my first dance teacher, and she’s classically trained in Bharatnatyam. Now, I try to take a class in a different dance form every couple of years. Two years ago, I took salsa, and I love that it’s an exploration of freedom and intuitive partnership. Right now, I’m doing ballet, which is more about discipline, mental strength, and I find there’s a sense of fragility to it.
Saeyri: How did your style evolve throughout the years?
Preethi: Working in the kitchens, my clothing style is definitely more utilitarian, focused, and functional. It’s always a shirt, a flannel, jeans — understated but gets the job done! The functionality aspect definitely translates to my style in my everyday life. I love natural, durable materials; I look for that one-off piece, patchwork scarves, accents and textures. I reuse my clothes a lot, so I look for pieces that I can mix and match easily.
Saeyri: What does jewelry mean to you? What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?
Preethi: I wear jewelry all the time; mostly earrings. I like any sort of piece that accents an outfit or complements my mood. If I want to feel bold, I’ll reach for a loud, vibrant accent piece. I find most of the time this happens more unconsciously than consciously.
For me, jewelry is often attached to a memory. I’ll buy it on a trip, or for a special occasion, or get gifted a piece of jewelry. When I wear something, it usually reminds me of a time, place or person. My favorite piece of jewelry is a gold chain that was my grandma’s. She melted it down to make a more modern chain and earrings for me.
I love that jewelry can transcend through time and generations.
It reminds me of her wisdom, and now, I feel like I get to take parts of her and keep it with me.
Saeyri: We are so grateful you made us a part of your wedding photo look. What inspired your look?
Preethi: The photos were shot at Muir Woods Beach Lookout. We’ve done this hike many times, and it’s where I got engaged; so, it was easy to decide on the location.
My husband and I wanted to incorporate natural, heirloom pieces in our looks and to highlight the gorgeous coastal backdrop.
Simrah Farrukh, our photographer, captured these moments. She is incredibly talented!
I wore a deep blue, hand-printed saree from Native, and the Masala Chai Earrings from Saeyri. I love looking for small businesses like artisanal jewelry makers on Instagram, and that’s how I discovered Saeyri! The Masala Chai Earrings are so delicate and tasteful, and I love the spice motifs. I loved that it had a piece of Indian culture incorporated into a modern timeless design.
Saeyri: What are you excited about right now?
Preethi: 1. Sharing meals with people I love. 2. The new Kitava location in Temescal, Oakland. We worked with a wonderful local artist, Kalani Ware, who painted a mural for the restaurant and got to work with nonprofits along the way!
Three Rapid Fire Questions:
S: What’s your favorite spice?
P: Fennel, it’s an underdog that’s great for your gut and more!
S: A winter comfort food you love to make?
P: The fish stew from the Bar Tartine cookbook.
S: Favorite food-themed movie?
P: Tampopo (1985)!Hope you enjoyed reading our conversation with Preethi. You can find her on Instagram at @preethiaylard.