Meet the Man Behind the Spice
Meherwan Irani of Spicewalla is fairly legendary in food and restaurant circlesBy Tina Firesheets | Photo by Spicewalla
At this point, Meherwan Irani’s story is fairly legendary in food and restaurant circles. The self-taught chef, with zero prior restaurant experience, has earned accolades that include four James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast. It’s also been said that he’s revolutionizing Indian food in the United States.
Here are his thoughts on early culinary influences and what he has learned from quickly building a restaurant empire, including Asheville's Spicewalla spice shop.
CC: Who was your biggest culinary influence?
MI: My mom, of course! What made her cooking unique was that she was comfortable in multiple styles: She knew the food from North India. She spent time in Europe and learned how to cook English and Italian (food). She married a Parsi, so learned that (Indo-Persian) cuisine, which is so distinctive. And she learned Maharashtra cuisine when we lived there.
CC: You turned your passion into a rapidly expanding business. What have you learned?MI: Pick a business you’ll enjoy being in, then make it your passion. Too many people think you start with passion. Start with dedication first, and passion will follow.
Secondly, you’ll hear all the time that the customer is king ... I would argue that businesses need to be employee-centric. Take care of your team and watch them pass it forward, blowing away your customers because they’re experiencing incredible hospitality, service and care themselves.
CC: What are some basic spice staples for Indian cuisine?
MI: The answer depends on what region you’re cooking. But there are certainly some ingredients that are common: turmeric, high-quality chili powder (not cayenne but something like Kashmiri chili powder), cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, coriander powder and garam masala.
About the AuthorTina Firesheets is a freelance writer based in Jamestown, North Carolina.
More chefs and restaurants