Q&A with ‘Chopped’ Judge Maneet Chauhan
It’s almost difficult to believe that Maneet Chauhan, with her impressive resume, including her tenure as a judge on Chopped and her executive chef status at both Chicago and New York’s Vermilion.
At the end of the summer, she will be opening her first restaurant in Nashville, called Chauhan Ale & Masala House, which will open in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood, and feature contemporary Indian food fused with the atmosphere of a gastropub. Her purpose? To show everyone that Indian food can be approachable.
What’s the most exciting and frightening part of opening your first restaurant?
I think the most exciting thing about opening it is the fact that the creativity that goes into it — there’s so much more to opening a restaurant that you have to think about. The most exciting part has been working with my team, and the most frightening part is that there’s so much more on the line.
How do you combine a gastropub with Indian cuisine? Has that been done before?
People always try hard to pair wines with Indian foods. But what about beer? The IPA actually originated in India during British colonization. And we thought, why don’t we try brewing beers with Indian spices, and that’s how it started. A lot of people are still intimidated by Indian food, but most people haven’t had true, beautiful Indian food. We try to put a little bit of Nashville into every dish. For instance, we have a chicken de la poutine, and instead of regular gravy we have chicken Tika masala sauce and chunks of tandoori chicken. We have wings with a yogurt sauce and mango mint chutney. The idea is that people read the menu, and can understand it. The dishes, price points and flavors are very approachable… We also have a small traditional Indian section with naan and kebabs for people who want their traditional fix.
What can you tell me about your partnership with Cool Springs Brewery?
We met with a local brewer and told him our idea to do infusions. He started working on recipes, and executing them. One of our first flavors was mango mint, and since then we have come with great initial batches, made from cardamom and saffron, masala, coffee cayenne, chai porter; a lot of interesting spice combinations. We were very adamant about working with a local brewer, because it’s all about the local community. Every month we will offer a different spiced beer, as well as eight different beers on tap.
What are you hoping for the future of the new restaurant?
Right now, Nashville is having an exciting moment in the dining scene, which is one of the reasons I chose the city. Also, there are no interesting Indian-inspired restaurants here. It’s not just about the menu, but we want to start introducing people to Indian culture. We are going to do a Bollywood night, an Indian street food theme night with a DJ that will become a monthly event. Basically it will be a whole cultural experience. This will be the first, but not the last restaurant. We want to open two or three more.
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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi