Meherwan Irani


Years of Participation

2018-2020, 2023

Meherwan Irani is a chef and restaurateur 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 Atlanta, Botiwalla Charlotte, Buxton Hall Barbecue, Buxton 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.