Chef Maneet Chauhan's Love Letter to Fusion Food

Isabel Evans

From her mouthwatering cuisine at restaurants like Vermilion to her role as a judge on Chopped, chef Maneet Chauhan has established herself as a starpower foodie who can fuse global tastes into a unified menu. But she wasn’t always a household name. To get where she is today, Maneet worked hard at culinary school in India while taking on apprenticeships at top restaurants and hotels. At age 20, she managed to earn a coveted spot at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. She began her career managing a restaurant in New Jersey before moving to Chicago, where she beat out tough competition to be selected to be executive chef at Vermillion. Today, she’s not just front of house: she is the house.

Besides New York and Chicago, Maneet’s now got a large footprint in Nashville, where she’s opened four restaurants and two breweries in four years. Given how much she has on her plate, one can understand why her friends were so confused when they saw the chef literally painting the walls at her new Nashville restaurant, Chaatable.

“We were painting walls and rolling up our sleeves. I joked that three weeks in [to the opening], I still have paint under my fingernails. People would walk into the restaurant, and I’m covered in glue and paint, and they’d be like: ‘Maneet, what are you doing?’”

This is a perfect insight into how the renowned chef operates her business. She’s hands on, hard working, and passionate. Her enthusiasm for her job radiates when she speaks. She absolutely loves the joy of cooking and grows even more enamored with her craft by the year.

“Cooking is one of the few professions where there is instant gratification. I make the food and I give it to the guests, and people love it. The results are instantaneous,” she says. “It’s a rush when you have 300 people sitting outside and the orders don’t’ stop coming and you’re like: oh my god, I’m going to drown! But at the end of the day, you don’t, and the food goes out, and there’s a sense of elation. You’ve finished a hundred-meter sprint.”

Getting her newest restaurant Chaatable, which literally translates to “to lick,” up and running was definitely a race to the finish line, hence Maneet’s paint-covered fingernails. But it was a labor of love for the chef and her husband and trusted business partner. They first met at that same culinary school in India. In a way, Chaatable is a joint love letter for the two of them, as many of the dishes on the menu are from that college town of Manipal. The chef and her husband get so excited about the dishes that they continue their conversations about the restaurant into social settings, too absorbed in their new project to change the subject.

Her recipes have often been a fusion of Indian and other flavors and Chaatable features some of her most flavorful dishes yet. One recipe, the black-eyed pea croquette, is a perfect example of how she plays with Southern and Indian flavors. Reading about her food can make you feel like dropping everything and booking a spontaneous trip to Nashville. Just try to resist this:

RECIPE:

Black Eye Pea Croquettes

with Byadagi Aioli and Jaipur Slaw

Courtesy of Maneet Chauhan | Nashville, Tennessee

Ingredients

  • Black Eyed Peas – 2 Cups
  • Cilantro – 116 Grams
  • Red Onion, Chopped – 1 Cup
  • Red Pepper, Chopped – 1 Cup
  • Yellow Pepper, Chopped – 1 Cup
  • Jalapeno, Chopped – 21 Grams
  • Ginger Garlic Paste – 2 Tablespoons  
  • Lemon Juice – 2 Ounces
  • Potato – 3 Medium Potatoes, Boiled, Peeled and Shredded
  • Panko – 84 Grams
  • Red Chili Powder – 1 Teaspoon
  • Cumin Powder – 3 Grams
  • Amchur – 2 Grams
  • Salt – 18 Grams
  • Black Pepper, Freshly Ground – 7 Grams

Method

Soak black eyed peas overnight. Boil them until tender and cool the next day. in robot coupe, pulse peas, peppers, onion, jalapeno, ginger garlic and lemon. Remove and mix in bread crumbs in spices. Portion 1.5 oz balls with a disher. Coat each piece with breadcrumbs.  Deep fry at 350 degrees until golden brown, approx. 3 minutes.