Eatocracy.com, an industry leader in fine-dining news, reports that Oxford and Snackbar’s Chef Vishwesh Bhatt is one of the top five chefs in the south.
“The film industry has the Oscars, the music industry has the Grammy Awards. If you’re a chef or restaurateur, you want a James Beard Award medal around your neck,” the Website said in announcing Beard winners from around the nation.
All of Chef Bhatt’s competitors represented restaurants from New Orleans and the co-winners winners were Sue Zemanick from Gautreau’s and Ryan Prewitt from Pêche Seafood Grill.
To learn more about the winners in other categories, click on https://eatocracy.cnn.com/2014/05/05/2014-james-beard-awards-chefs-and-restaurants-winners-are/
Chef Bhatt has been Snackbar’s chef for four years. He has been a semifinalist in the Beard competition twice since 2011, and these award nominations were significant to him.
“I’m surprised but honored to be nominated for the Beard Award,” Bhatt said. “I’m working, and still will be.”
In an interview with Food and Wine, Bhatt revealed his most famous dish to be inspired by a combination of Indian and the American South influences: okra chaat. The dish is made of crispy fried okra with a bit of shallot, some lime juice and a little cilantro, peanuts and spiced tomato.
Hailing from Gujarat, India, Bhatt was a student at the University of Kentucky when he began cooking as a way to save money. It was only later, after being offered payment from a university professor to cook dishes for a dinner party, that he realized that he could turn his skills into a career.
His first restaurant job was at the Harvest Café in Oxford in 1992. Then he traveled throughout the South. He cooked at several restaurants, one being Blackwater Café in Jackson, Miss. He moved on as far as The Brown Palace and Full Moon Grill in Boulder, Colo., before deciding to return to Oxford in 2001.
“I came back to Oxford because I have friends here,” Bhatt said. “The support system here is good. My favorite thing about this town was how well the people here have taken in me — the hospitality.”
He commented that the food culture in Oxford is opportunistic.
“There’s more restaurants here than when I first started cooking in Oxford,” he said. “And there’s always room for more restaurants. I like that this city has access to fresh produce from the local farms who sell their produce through our local farmers markets. Our sister restaurant at the Farmers Market and Oxford City Grocery.”
Since 1990, the not-for-profit James Beard Foundation, named after “the father of American cuisine,” has been honoring the outstanding names in the food and beverage industry.
There is no cash reward, but a win — or even a nomination — can substantially increase the buzz for business, according to foundation President Susan Ungaro.
Chef and restaurant winners were announced on May 5 at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.
The James Beard Foundation was named for the beloved cookbook author and teacher called the “Dean of American Cookery,” who mentored generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. The foundation is dedicated to celebrating, nurturing and honoring America’s diverse culinary heritage. The nonprofit organization accomplishes this mission through programs that include educational initiatives, food industry awards, an annual national food conference, leadership awards programs, culinary scholarships and publications.
For more information about the James Beard Awards, click here.
Some material courtesy of Eatocracy.com
In the News — Bhatt Makes Top 5 in Beard Competition
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