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Now Nashville, Tennessee, has turned home of Indian street foods as Indian-American Maneet Chauhan, 42, is striking some spicy cuisines in Nashville with her brand new restaurant Chaatable, bringing the delight of Mumbai street food.
The 42-year-old Chauhan was a judge on Food Network's popular show Chopped and celebrity chef.
Chauhan along with the recently developed business venture of Morph Hospitality which she owns with her husband and business partner Vivek Deora have opened four booming restaurants in as many years in Nashville - Chauhan Ale & Masala House, The Mockingbird, Tansuo, and Chaatable, diversifying the cuisine available in Nashville.
When launching her first restaurant, Chauhan Ale & Masala House, she wanted to introduce Indian cuisine in an approachable way - with a fusion of Indian and American/Southern, from Lamb Keema Papadi Nachos to Hot Chicken Pakoras and Tandoori Shrimp and "Grits". The Mockingbird is a modern diner with global fare while Tansuo is contemporary Chinese.
The path of diverse cuisine was set in her childhood in Ranchi in Eastern India where she grew up in a small steel colony with people from all over the country from Bengal to Kerala. "I was always so fascinated with their food - it was my first love," she recalled. "I remember as a kid that I would go to neighbors' houses, after having had a meal at my house, and tell them that my Mom hadn’t fed me - which as you can imagine, mortified my parents! This would assure that my neighbors would quickly whip up some mysterious snack for me. The use of different spices and cooking techniques would always fascinate me."
Chauhan, who worked in major hotel chains like the Taj, Oberoi and Le Meridian in India, first came to the U.S. to study at the Culinary Institute of America. After being the cook at Vermilion, the celebrated Indian-Latin fusion restaurants in New York and Chicago for eight years and the first Indian woman to be a rival on television cooking shows, The Iron Chef and The Next Iron Chef, she was invited to be a judge on the enormously popular 'Chopped' which won the James Beard Award of Excellence.
Chauhan, who worked in major hotel chains like the Taj, Oberoi and Le Meridian in India, first came to the U.S. to study at the Culinary Institute of America. After being the chef at Vermilion, the acclaimed Indian-Latin fusion restaurants in Chicago and New York for eight years and the first Indian woman to be a competitor on TV cooking shows, The Iron Chef and The Next Iron Chef, she was invited to be a judge on the hugely popular 'Chopped' which won the James Beard Award of Excellence.
Currently, she is a star judge on Chopped and travels every few months to New York City to do the taping of the shows. With large followings on social media, Maneet Chauhan is an influencer in the food world.
Maneet Chauhan chose Nashville for her first namesake restaurant after being contacted by developer Moni Advani to come down to Music City for a visit. It was during her first trip that she fell in love with the city and its people and decided to stay.
While chaat is new for American consumers, Nashville is home to an immigrant Indian population too who loves their street food. "There is a sizeable Indian population here in Nashville," says Maneet. "I would say a favorite dish is the Chicken Tikka Masala Poutine. It has the foundation of Indian flavor with an American twist on it."
The restaurant is very accessible to the mainstream too as Chauhan has given it a colorful Indian experience. She has made a chaat bar where all the chaats are prepared right before the guests. And yes, there is a colorful wall of 20,000 glass bangles which you would probably not find on an Indian street.
When asked what suggestions sh would have for entrepreneurs embarking on a food business in a new country, particularly those trying to juggle families, she says: "My one bit of advice would be to not be afraid. Once you face the situation, you come up with the most amazing solutions. I think the most important factor is to give equal time to all things that are important to you. When you are working, work should have 100 percent of your attention. If you are with your child, they should have 100 percent of your attention."
Chauhan, when asked how Americans are reacting to India food, said: "I think it is quickly becoming a love relationship now that a new wave of Indian chefs is representing Indian food in all its true glory and not as the '$8.95 All You Can Eat Buffet.' America is finally being exposed and falling in love!"
Maneet Chauhan visits India often continuing to acquire inspiration from back home, trying new and old cuisines in varied cities: "I have a list of favorite restaurants and dishes that I have to have while I visit - so I make a pilgrimage out of eating!"