The Desi Dream Team Five chefs to know

In January of this year, five Indian American chefs staged a dinner at Meherwan Irani’s Chai Pani in Decatur, Georgia. It was the first in a planned “Brown in the South” supper series, featuring chefs of Indian descent who have made the American South their home. Read more about the dinner and what it meant to an adopted Southerner—our deputy editor, Osayi Endolyn, in her column, “A New Normal South.” First, though, meet the chefs.

Vishwesh Bhatt is a native of Gujarat state. He moved to the United States to attend college at the University of Kentucky, where he was student body president. He began graduate school at the University of Mississippi, before restaurant kitchens pulled him down a different path. Bhatt is the chef at Snackbar in Oxford—don’t miss his okra chaat.

Maneet Chauhan graduated from the premier school of hospitality & hotel management in India before making her way to the United States. She earned a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and ran restaurants in New Jersey, New York, and Chicago. Since 2014, Chauhan and her family have made Nashville their home. Chauhan Ale & Masala House is the flagship of her growing empire.

Asha Gomez founded Cardamom Hill and Spice to Table in Atlanta. She now operates Third Space and recently launched DYAD Tea & Spice Company. Gomez’s Kerala fried chicken put her on the map; less known but equally sublime is her black-pepper-inflected carrot cake.

Meherwan Irani directs Chai Pani, an Indian street-food restaurant with locations in Decatur and Asheville. He takes inspiration from his grandfather, who owned a café serving tea, kababs, and Indo-Persian cuisine in the family’s hometown of Ahmednagar, India.

Thanks to Cheetie Kumar, 14 W. Martin Street is the coolest spot in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. There, Kumar and her husband, Paul Siler, operate three businesses: Garland, an Indian and Asian restaurant; Neptune’s Parlour, an underground cocktail bar; and Kings, a live-music venue that Kumar and Siler revived after a much-lamented closure by the previous owners.

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