Meherwan Irani is Executive Chef & Chief Chaiwalla at Chai Pani, MG Road, and Buxton Hall in Asheville, as well as Chai Pani and Botiwalla in Atlanta.
In 2009, Irani quit his day job in sales to open his first restaurant—Chai Pani, an authentic Indian street food joint in downtown Asheville. Whether it was a midlife crisis or a stroke of genius is debatable. In any case, the self-taught chef is now opening his fifth. With two James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast under his belt, he’s finally confident this might be working out. His restaurants have been written up in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ, Food & Wine, Men’s Health, USA Today, and Bon Appetit, among others. Not bad for a former car salesman—although his mother who still lives in India is not impressed. He accredits his business success to the amazing people he works with each day, including his business partner and wife, Molly.