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Vice President Harris Invited Asheville Chef Meherwan Irani to Cook for the Indian Delegation in D.C.

The Chai Pani chef served pani puri, spinach samosas, mango halva, and more

A laughing Black and Indian woman in a blue jacket shakes hands with an Indian man in a black chefs jacket.
Vice President Harris greets Meherwan Irani.
Official State Department Photographer James Pan
Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas.

Meherwan Irani, known for his restaurants across the Southeast (Chai Pani, Botiwalla, and Buxton Hall), recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to cook at the State Department luncheon for the visit of the delegation from India. Vice President Kamala Harris invited Irani as part of the State Department’s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership.

Irani also brought along James Grogan of Asheville and Daniel Peach and Sahar Siddiqi of Atlanta/Decatur.

The menu included pani puri, spinach samosas, millet-lentil khichadi, mango halva, and masala chai.

“Our mission was to honor the guest country and showcase the culinary diversity of the Indian diaspora in America while using seasonal ingredients that speak to the American South which is now my home,” says Irani, “It was a fully vegetarian meal out of respect to the Indian delegation’s culinary heritage and incorporated millet (India is championing 2023 as the Year of Millets), okra as a Southern staple, and mangoes that are now in season and considered the king of fruits in India. Khichadi is one of India’s humblest one-pot dishes typically made with rice and lentils. To commemorate India’s ‘Year of Millets’ we used kodo millet instead of rice. Kodo millet is a staple in the Deccan Plateau, my home in India. Millet in the form of sorghum is also a staple in the American South. I felt that it was a perfect ingredient to bridge the two cultures of India and America.”