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Brown in the south

Brown in the South is a new series of collaborative dinners featuring celebrated indian chefs: Vishwesh Bhatt, Maneet Chauhan, Asha Gomez, Cheetie Kumar, AND Meherwan Irani. 

They all live and cook in the American South, and THEY are STARTing the CONVERSATION ABOUT FOOD, IDENTITY, AND BELONGING.

 

ABOUT US

Some of the South's best chefs are coming together for an exciting new project: Brown in the South. This collaborative dinner series features acclaimed chefs of Indian descent (Vishwesh Bhatt, Maneet Chauhan, Asha Gomez, Cheetie Kumar, and Meherwan Irani) all who have made the American South their home. .

The very first installment of the "Brown in the South" Supper Series, Desi Diner, was held at Chai Pani Decatur on January 14th, 2018. Check out our snaps from the night here. The second dinner, An Indian Supper, was held at Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville on August 13th and also featured special guest chefs Farhan Momin and Samantha ForeCheck out those pics here.

We've vowed to continue these dinners all over the Southeast, and we're keeping that promise to ya. The next one will be in Raleigh in March, 2018. To stay up to date on future Brown in the South events, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

Brown in the South proceeds benefit the Southern Foodways Alliance, a member-supported organization based at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture that documents, studies, and explores the diverse food cultures of the changing American South through oral histories, films and podcasts. 

"This is the version of the South that I’ve wanted to be a part of since settling here, and to be truthful, the one I’ve found to be most elusive. The discrete parts have long been present, but don’t always engage in the same space at the same time and under such joyous circumstances. The South these self-described “brown” chefs celebrate by their thematic collaboration wouldn’t exist if they didn’t stake a claim in it. What I want most from the Brown in the South dinner series is for it to one day be wholly unremarkable that a group of Indian American chefs would claim their Southern identity so boldly. I want the series—and events inspired by it—to eventually be welcomed as interesting but not groundbreaking. Because why wouldn’t there be multiple ways of enjoying the myriad dishes on offer in this abundant region? For people whose Southern identities have been inherited rather than forged, the question of belonging may feel overwrought. It’s not. This distinction is easy to overlook when you have made your life in the place that you’re from, or if you’re not immediately interrogated for characteristics that set you apart from your neighbors. All of us have a role in building our own narratives. But if you never sat in your parents’ laps and asked why they came to America, or had to justify to loved ones why you’re moving so far away, it can be easy to understate the psychic shift required to make a place you’re not from feel like home." - Osayi Endolyn, writer for Gravy and Southern Foodways Alliance. 

THE OG DESI DREAM TEAM

MEHERWAN IRANI | ASHEVILLE, NC

Chef/Owner/Founder, Chai Pani Restaurant Group

James Beard Nominee: Best Chef Southeast, 2014, '15, '18, ‘19

“Brown in the South was really born out of a big question that occurred to us as chefs coming from Indian backgrounds. It was us wondering if a time would come where we saw ourselves less as Indians that happened to live and cook in the South, but more as Southerners that happened to be of Indian origin. It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it felt big to us.

My hope is that this is an annual series showcasing how brown immigrants, both first generation and second generation, are bringing their culinary traditions to cooking in the South. Call me an idealist, but I’m trying to start a movement where everyday conversations about Southern cuisine are broader and deeper than the familiar tropes.”

 

 

ASHA GOMEZ | ATLANTA, GA

Chef/Owner, The Third Space

James Beard Nominee: Best Chef Southeast, 2013

Author, My Two Souths

James Beard Nominee Book Award in American Cooking 2017

The Gourmand Awards National Winner: Best Indian Cuisine 2017

“My two Souths are over nine thousand miles apart and would seem to be in separate universes. Surprisingly, I have found their shared aspects—a warm, humid climate, abundant produce varieties, expanses of rice acreage, and busy coastal communities along with a spirit of sharing, a gift for entertaining and storytelling, a talent for creating bounty out of an often modest pantry, the love of fried chicken, and a sincere embrace of simplicity—blend easily in my South by South cuisine." 

 

 

CHEETIE KUMAR | RALEIGH, NC

Chef/Owner, Garland. Guitarist, Birds of Avalon

James Beard Nominee: Best Chef Southeast, 2017, 2019

“When my family moved to the US from India, I was only 8 so it wasn’t really a choice I made. I happily absorbed all the cultures and befriended kids from all over the world who found themselves in a public school somewhere in the Bronx where we made our new life. Moving to the South was the first time I got to choose my home because, well, it felt like home. I recognized the culture in NC as one that was food-centric, w/a long, rich, and sometimes painful history - much like that of my native Punjab. I could drive a couple of minutes to the State Farmers Market any day of the year, pick up produce plucked and pulled from the ground just a few miles down the road, head over to the Asian market of my choice & cook up a nice meal for my friends. I fell in love with cooking while I pursued my dream of playing guitar in touring rock bands. As I traveled, I saw that when we celebrate our similarities, we make more delicious memories. And in the end, that’s what really matters." 

 

MANEET CHAUHAN | NASHVILLE, TENNESSE

Prominent TV personality, active philanthropist, and James Beard Award of excellence winner

Judge, Food Networkʼs Chopped

Founder, Morph Hospitality Group

“When I first came to the States I was shocked to see how often Indian food was misrepresented. It then became my crusade to showoff the true beauty of the cuisine. Now I'm excited to see the new wave of passionate and talented chefs who are bringing Indian cuisine to the forefront in America. Being relatively new to The South, I feel the souls of Indian and Southern food are the same and having the opportunity to hang out with these rockstar chefs was the most enticing part about this dinner!! Proud to be “Brown in the South” y’all!"

 

 

VISHWESH  BHATT  |  OXFORD,  MS

Corporate  Chef  of  City  Grocery  Restaurant  Group,  overseeing   restaurants  City  Grocery,  Snackbar,  Big  Bad  Breakfast,  Main  Event  Catering,  &  Lamar  Lounge

James  Beard  Nom:  Best  Chef  South:  2012,  '13, '14,  '15, '16,  '17, ‘19

“I  am  a  Southern  chef.  No,  not  one  that  was  born  here,  not  the  one  whose  Nana  made  a  sublime  chicken  and  dumplings  that  is  the  talk  of  church  suppers  in  three  counties.  I  am  not  the  Southern  chef  who  grew  up  eating  BBQ  &  hunting  ducks  with  his  uncles.  I  am  not  the  guy  who  knows  where  the  best  fishing  hole  is,  nor  am  I  the  one  that  makes  venison  jerky  every  winter  w/ his  grandfather. No, I am  not  even  the  chef  that  cooks  the  comfort  foods  of  your  childhood.  I  am  not  here  to  alter Grandma’s  fried  chicken  recipe,  nor  am  I  attempting  to  mess  up  a  perfectly  good  pecan  pie,  but  I  am  a  chef  who  wants  to  add  to  that  story.  I  want  the  food  of  my  childhood to  become  part  of  the  Southern  Culinary  repertoire  just  like  tamales,  kibbeh,  and  lasagna  have  become.I  want  to  show  that  the  ingredients  of  the  modern  southern  pantry  were  very  much  the  ingredients  of  my  mother's  pantry  as  well.  I  want  to  tell  you  my  southern  story  the  best  way  I  know  -  through  my  food.”

 

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For our 2nd Brown in the South dinner we were joined by two special guest chefs: Farhan Momin and Samantha Fore

Are you interested in cooking with us? Click here to send us an email. 

@BROWNINTHESOUTH

PRESS

Want to talk to Meherwan about chai? Want to talk to Maneet about Chopped? Want to talk to Asha about cornbread?  
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THE TEAL MANGO

When they created the “Brown in the South” Supper Series earlier this year, a group of some of the most high-profile Indian restaurateurs in the United States pledged to “showcase the culture, culinary heritage, and cooking styles of these celebrated chefs, while keeping the focus on southern ingredients and uniquely southern themes.”  The group  recently announced that the supper series would return on August 13. As they did with the earlier event, the chefs will be tasked with creating an Indian meal around a theme (in this case “Indian Summer”) while also centering the dishes around ingredients native to the American South.

-LAKSHMI GANDHI, The Teal Mango 

FOOD & WINE MAGAZINE

Irani says that the idea for the series emerged from a conversation he had with Bhatt about the new generation of Indian chefs in the South. 

"We wondered if a time would come where we saw ourselves less as Indians that happened to live and cook in the South, but more as Southerners that happened to be of Indian origin," says Irani. "It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it felt big to us."

They reached out to other star chefs of Indian descent with whom they'd had similar conversations, including Cheetie and Maneet, and the concept quickly took shape. Each dinner would be shaped around an iconic Southern institution, ingredient or tradition.

-MARIA YAGODA, Food & Wine

GRAVY/SOUTHERN FOODWAYS ALLIANCE

"At my table, I dine with white Atlanta farmers, a Kentuckian chef of Sri Lankan descent, a reporter of Indian heritage, and Southern-born African Americans who work in publishing and academia. This is the version of the South that I’ve wanted to be a part of since settling here, and to be truthful, the one I’ve found to be most elusive. The discrete parts have long been present, but don’t always engage in the same space at the same time and under such joyous circumstances. The South these self-described “brown” chefs celebrate by their thematic collaboration wouldn’t exist if they didn’t stake a claim in it."

- OSAYI ENDOLYN, Southern Foodways Alliance

KHABAR MAGAZINE

Admitting that he is a passive Southerner whose birth allowed him to inherit the South as his home, John T. applauded those who claim it actively, namely immigrants who choose to come here, who find value and contribute to the region, and who make it home. He recognized that such contributions matter a great deal not only to the SFA, but also to the region. He emphasized that it was not just necessary but important to understand this new South, to look at how these stories must be reframed in the context of where they are told and who is telling them. 

NANDITA GODBOLE, Khabar Magazine

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