Food 2022

Niven Patel

The Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand award recipient Chef Niven Patel combines the love of good food and the journey to the forefront of everything they do.

“I want my guests to
walk into my restaurant with the sense of entering my home. I want them to feel at home. I want them to smell the aromas and spices and get more engaged in their meal.”

Meherwan Irani

Meherwan Irani is a chef and restauranteur changing the perception of Indian food in America through his growing restaurant and spice empire in the South’s most essential culinary cities. He is a leading voice in the industry’s conversation around diversity and cultural exchange. In 2022, Meherwan’s flagship restaurant in Asheville, Chai Pani, was named Outstanding Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation. Meherwan was named by TIME Magazine as one of the “31 People Changing The South” and is a five-time James Beard Foundation Awards semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast.

Meherwan leads a team of more than 300 as Co-Founder, Chef and CEO of Chai Pani Restaurant Group, which includes nine locations: Chai Pani Asheville, Chai Pani Decatur, Botiwalla Charlotte, Buxton Hall Barbecue, Buston Chicken Palace, Nani’s Piri Piri CHicken in Atlanta, and spice brand Spicewalla, which has two outposts in Asheville and Atlanta.

Meherwan grew up in Ahmednagar, in the midwestern state of Maharashtra in India, and he came to the U.S. at age 20. In 2009, he and his wife and business partner, Molly, introduced Asheville, North Carolina, to the colors, flavors and faces of India with Chai Pani.

Michael Schwartz

Michael Schwartz made a name for his fresh approach in the kitchen, sourcing fresh ingredients in season from small suppliers and presenting then simply on the menu. Now, diners keep returning to Schwartz’s growing group of restaurants for their reliably exceptional food, but also great energy, welcoming neighborhood dining environment, and attention to detail in all aspects of the guest experience. Beloved by locals and visitors alike, his now 12-year old Miami flagship Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink is committed to quality at the bar too, with a lively happy hour, cocktail program and raw bar. The same philosophy applies to
wine program with iconic winemakers but also small production, biodynamic and natural wines with a story behind the label. The delightfully buzzy and sunny courtyard is a standard for Schwartz’s signature small plate-driven Sunday Brunch and keeps guests and shoppers stated in Miami’s new hub for art, fashion and culture, the Design District.