Dinner at the Patel Motel (Gravy Ep. 33)

Vimal Patel cooks inside -- and outside -- a room in the Day's Inn he operates in North Charleston. Photo by Wade Spees for the Post & Courier.

We stay at them around the South and across the United States: Day’s Inn. Best Western. Quality Inn. But there is a food world behind the scenes at some motels that most people are unaware of. In this episode of Gravy, a partnership with the Post & Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, we delve into that world. Hanna Raskin brings us the story of how so many motels came to be owned by families from the Gujarat region of India, and the secret cooking they do to keep their culinary traditions going here in the United States.

You can read the companion story Hanna wrote for the Post & Courier here.

Vimal Patel cooks inside -- and outside -- a room in the Day's Inn he operates in North Charleston. Wade Spees for the Post & Courier.
Vimal Patel cooks inside — and outside — a room in the Day’s Inn he operates in North Charleston. Wade Spees for the Post & Courier.

You can find Pawan Dhingra’s book Life Behind the Lobby: Indian American Motel Owners and the American Dream here.

Kamini Patel tries to grow everything she might need for cooking in her garden at their motel in North Charleston. "Everything I eat I try to grow," she said. Paul Zoeller for the Post & Courier.
Kamini Patel tries to grow everything she might need for cooking in her garden at their motel in North Charleston. “Everything I eat I try to grow,” she said. Paul Zoeller for the Post & Courier.

There’s more info about the Asian American Hotel Owners Association here.

Vimal Patel cooks inside -- and outside -- a room in the Day's Inn he operates in North Charleston. Wade Spees for the Post & Courier.
Vimal Patel cooks inside — and outside — a room in the Day’s Inn he operates in North Charleston. Wade Spees for the Post & Courier.

You can learn about Gujarati-born chef Vishwesh Bhatt– now at Snack Bar in Oxford, Mississippi—here.

Portrait of Vishwesh Bhatt by Pableaux Johnson.
Portrait of Vishwesh Bhatt by Pableaux Johnson.