Best known as one of the panel of judges on the award-winning Food Network program, Chopped, Maneet Chauhan’s energy and creativity, combined with polished culinary skills and the courage to follow her passion, have proven to be the right ingredients for success. In September 2014, Maneet partnered with North Gulch Hospitality owners Moni Advani, London Parfitt, and Austin Ratliff to open her first restaurant, Chauhan Ale & Masala House, a microbrewery and gastropub with Indian influences, in Nashville, TN. “From the moment I stepped foot in the Music City I’ve had a love affair with the people and the burgeoning culinary scene,” she says. For the position of chef de cuisine Maneet chose fellow alumni Vasisht Ramasubramanian ’10 who previously worked at Jean-Georges Vongrichten’s ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina.
Her first cookbook, Flavors of My World, A Culinary Tour Through 25 Countries, was co-written with Doug Singer ’03 and released on May 1, 2013.
Originally from Ludhiana, India, Maneet comes from a culture that stresses the importance of education. She had to prove herself as a serious culinary professional. “I chose an unconventional career path where the norm was to become a doctor or an engineer,” she says. She credits her family’s support for her success today. Maneet earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel management from The Welcomegroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, and then interned at some of India’s finest hotels and kitchens, including the Taj Group, Oberoi Hotels, and Le Meridian.
At the age of 20, Maneet continued her culinary education in 1998 by enrolling in The Culinary Institute of America’s baking and pastry arts associate degree program. She knew instantly that she was in the right place—everyone was passionate about cooking and food. “When I came to the Hyde Park campus it was so different that it took me some time to adjust,” says Maneet. “I made it a point to get involved in everything and anything. If anyone needed a volunteer, I was there. The chef-instructors were always looking for students to help with competitions and events. On the weekends I would assist the continuing education classes. I applied to be an RA. I was a tour guide, I was on the judiciary board, and editor of the school paper.” Maneet graduated with top honors while earning numerous service and scholastic achievement awards. “Being under the same roof as 2,000 other people who were as passionate about food as I was is an experience that still excites me when I reflect upon it. My time at the CIA is very close to my heart.”
After graduation Maneet gained valuable culinary experience managing a family owned, fine-dining Indian restaurant in Cherry Hill, NJ where she led a team and doubled the restaurant’s capacity. But she wanted something more—a place where she could apply her creativity and passion for cooking.
Deciding to take a chance, she jumped in her Mazda Miata and headed for Chicago. She fell in love with the city and began her quest to find a job in a dynamic and challenging environment. Maneet was pitted against 40 male chefs for the executive chef position at Rohini Dey’s contemporary Indian and Latin American fusion restaurant Vermillion. She prevailed and was the restaurant’s opening chef. Her visions helped Vermillion earn many accolades, including Chicago Magazine’s Best New Restaurant in May 2004, Esquire’s Restaurant of the Month, and Wine Enthusiast’s Best New Restaurant in the U.S. for 2004. In 2007, Maneet moved to New York City to open At Vermilion where she was nominated as the Best Import to New York by Time Out magazine.
After spending eight years leading the Vermilion kitchens in Chicago and New York, Maneet ventured out on her own and founded Indie Culinaire, a culinary event, consulting, and hospitality company. “My daughter was born in 2011 and that was a real turning point for me,” Maneet says. “I realized I wanted to see what was out in the world, to increase my repertoire, and make it more interesting. That inspired me to start my own company.”
She is an active supporter of CRY (Child Rights and You) and P.A.V.E. (Partnerships for Action, Voices for Empowerment) and is involved with mentoring youths through the education arm of the National Restaurant Association’s Pro-Start program. Maneet was chosen as the only chef to cook at the first ever Indiaspora Inaugural Ball, honoring the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Being an executive chef is as much about running a successful business as it is about pursuing a passion for food. In addition to all the details of managing her new restaurant, Maneet is constantly honing her culinary skills, perfecting her trade, and challenging herself by adding new recipes to her repertoire. The combination is her proven formula for success. That success has taken her to become a contestant on the Food Network’s Next Iron Chef in 2010 and as a contestant on the network’s Chopped All-Stars.
Maneet Chauhan ’00