Indian eatery Chai Pani in US wins Outstanding Restaurant award
Run by five-time James Beard-nominated Chef Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani (which translates to ‘tea and water’), has a menu of ‘chaat’ items, tea, snacks, and other beverages
Chai Pani, an Indian street food restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina that serves tea and other quick bites, was named America’s most Outstanding Restaurant at the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago on Monday.
Run by five-time James Beard-nominated Chef Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani (which translates to ‘tea and water’), has a menu of ‘chaat’ items, tea, snacks, and other beverages. The website of the Asheville restaurant reads: “Chai Pani literally means ‘tea and water’. It’s slang in India for going out for a cup of tea, a tasty bite, a snack, or ‘a little something’. In Downtown Asheville (and now in Downtown Decatur) it means innovative, fun, affordable and delicious Indian cuisine. We’d go so far as to say it’s ‘mindblasting’ (sic).”
Winners under other categories included the Native American restaurant Owamni in Minneapolis — where the staff is 75 percent indigenous — which was named the Best New Restaurant. Outstanding Baker was Don Guerra at Barrio Bread in Tucson, Arizona, where he uses ancient grains that have seeds adapted to grow in the desert.
Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah, Georgia, was named Outstanding Chef. Chris Bianco of Tratto, Pane Bianco and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix was named Outstanding Restaurateur.
The honours were given after a break of two years since the event was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the closure of several restaurants in the US following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The break also reportedly gave the foundation an opportunity to remove systemic bias and include more diverse cuisines and more geographic variety. Dawn Padmore, Vice President of Awards, told media sources that the foundation did a “deep dive” on itself during its hiatus. “Looking at the audience and seeing so many different people, it feels different. It’s about reflecting the true diversity of the industry (sic),” she was quoted as saying.
The awards also come during a period when Americans are paying the highest prices for food in four decades amid surging inflation that is threatening the broader economy.
Here is the full list of winners:
Outstanding Restaurant: Chai Pani, Asheville, North Carolina
Outstanding Chef: Mashama Bailey, The Grey, Savannah, Georgia
Best New Restaurant: Owamni, Minneapolis
Outstanding Restaurateur: Chris Bianco, Tratto, Pane Bianco and Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix
Emerging Chef: Edgar Rico, Nixta Taqueria, Austin, Texas
Outstanding Baker: Don Guerra, Barrio Bread, Tucson, Arizona
Outstanding Pastry Chef: Warda Bouguettaya, Warda Pâtisserie in Detroit
Outstanding Wine Program: The Four Horsemen, New York
Outstanding Bar Program: Julep, Houston
Outstanding Hospitality: Cúrate, Asheville, North Carolina
Best Chef: California - Brandon Jew, Mister Jiu’s, San Francisco
Best Chef: Southwest - Fernando Olea, Sazón, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Best Chef: Midwest - Dave Baldwin, The Diplomat, Milwaukee
Best Chef: Mountain - Caroline Glover, Annette, Aurora, Colorado
Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific - Robynne Maii, Fête, Honolulu
Best Chef: Texas - Iliana de la Vega, El Naranjo, Austin, Texas
Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic - Cristina Martinez, South Philly Barbacoa, Philadelphia
Best Chef: New York State - Chintan Pandya, Dhamaka, New York
Best Chef: South - Adam Evans, Automatic Seafood and Oysters, Birmingham, Alabama
Best Chef: Southeast - Ricky Moore, SALTBOX Seafood Joint, Durham, North Carolina
Best Chef: Northeast - Nisachon Morgan, Saap, Randolph, Vermont
Best Chef: Great Lakes - Erick Williams, Virtue Restaurant and Bar, Chicago