Chef Vishwesh Bhatt remembers spending countless hours in the kitchen helping his mom prepare meals when he was a little boy in India. Much of the produce they cooked with was not much different from that found in many Southern kitchens: black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes, greens, rice, and okra.
Now a transplant to Oxford, Mississippi, Bhatt has found a way to merge his old and new influences to create a culinary experience that is both Southern and Indian. He is just one of many Indian chefs bringing new flavors to old Southern staples. Like him, chef Meherwan Irani has made Asheville his home and runs the popular restaurant Chai Pani. Together they mused: What if our cuisine could become as mainstream as nachos or spaghetti? Seeking to show that the South is evolving, they came up with a collaborative dinner series called “Brown In The South.” This year’s ticketed event is Sunday, March 24 at Garland and Kings in Raleigh. In addition to Bhatt and Irani, the featured chefs include Cheeti Kumar of Garland, Asha Gomez of The Third Space in Atlanta and Maneet Chauhan of Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville. Bhatt, Irani, and Kumar join host Frank Stasio to share stories of being brown in the South and being named in Southern Living Magazine as Southerners of the Year for 2018.