Four Indian-Americans among nominees for James Beard Foundation awards

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Asha Gomez
Vishwesh Bhatt

Four Indian-Americans are among nominees for this year’s James Beard Foundation awards, considered the Oscars of the food world. The annual awards are presented by the foundation for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and culinary education in the U.S.

The Indian-American nominees are chefs Asha Gomez and Vishwesh Bhatt, and sommelier Rajat Parr. Producer Sangita Lee Chandra’s WCVB TV Chronicle – Chocolate hosted by Anthony Everett is nominated in the Broadcast Media Awards category.

The 2017 James Beard Awards Gala, hosted by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, will be held at Lyric Opera of Chicago on May

Rajat Parr
Sangita Lee Chandra

1, while the Media awards, hosted by Andrew Zimmer will be held April 25 at New York City’s Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers. The New York City-based foundation aims to celebrate, nurture, and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire.

Nominated in the Best Chef (South) category is Bhatt, of Snackbar in Oxford. Mo. Although Bhatt, popularly known as Vish, is originally from Gujarat, his restaurant serves Southern and French food with a twist. A NPR report on Bhatt said he uses traditional Southern ingredients, like catfish, grits or mac and cheese — but prepares them using flavors and techniques of India.

Bhatt opened Snackbar in 2009 under the City Grocery umbrella, connecting Southern and subcontinental foodways on one menu. His work earned him a People’s Best New Chef nomination from Food & Wine in 2011. Snackbar has been recognized by local and national media as one of the finest restaurants in the South. The highlight of Bhatt’s five years as chef at Snackbar, has been the recognition by the James Beard Foundation, as a finalist for Best Chef South in 2014. Bhatt has most recently been named Corporate Chef of City Grocery Restaurant Group to oversee kitchens at City Grocery, Snackbar, Big Bad Breakfast, Main Event Catering, and Lamar Lounge, hottoddy.com reported. He resides in Oxford with his wife Teresa and his two dogs, Pogo and Tula.

The Atlanta-based Gomez is nominated in the American Cooking category for her book “My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen”, which she co-wrote with Martha Hall Foose. Gomez began her professional culinary career in 2010 as the founder of Spice Route Supper Club, a series of intimate gatherings in her home. The supper club’s popularity led Asha to open her first restaurant Cardamom Hill launched in January 2012 in Berkeley Heights.

Her Kerala fried chicken, Cardamom Hill’s signature, has been a draw at the Atlanta Food Wine Festival the last two years and won the People’s Choice award at the city’s first annual Mother Clucker Fried Chicken Festival, her website says.  She has also been showcased in feature stories in the Atlantan and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and her recipes will have appeared in issues of Food Wine, Bon Appetit, and Country Living.

Cardamom Hill was named one of Bon Appetit’s 2012’s 50 Best New Restaurants, was on the 2013 James Beard Semi-Finalist List of 20 Best New Restaurants and in August of 2013 one of Southern Living’s 100 Best Restaurants in the South. Gomez was also named one of the 2013 Food Wine Magazine Best New Chef – People’s Choice semi-finalists. Most recently Gomez opened a new “culinary conversation” event studio called The Third Space in the summer of 2013. In August 2014, she opened Spice to Table, a fast-casual Indian pattiserie that has already garnered national and local acclaim including Zagat’s 12 Hottest Brunch places in the U.S.,and Atlanta Magazine’s annual Best of Atlanta. In her spare time she is passionate about her advocacy work as a CARE Ambassador as well as raising her 11 year-old son Ethan, her website says.

Parr, who is nominated for the Who’s Who award is partner and proprietor of the Lampoc, California-based Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi wines.

Born in Calcutta, Parr credits his uncle in London for first introducing him to great wines, his profile on the Sandhi wines website says. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Hotel Administration, Rajat entered the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, New York. He began his wine career as an apprentice to one of the industry’s most acclaimed master sommeliers, Larry Stone at Rubicon in San Francisco.

Parr continued on and brought his expertise to the award-winning Fifth Floor before being named wine director for The Mina Group. In 2011, Parr launched Sandhi, a partnership with Charles Banks and Sashi Moorman, to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from select vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills. In 2013, he released wines from his new estate vineyard, Domaine de la Côte, located on the westernmost edge of the Sta. Rita Hills, an American Viticultural Area located in Santa Barbara County, California. Most recently, in early 2014, Rajat took over Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon.

Parr is one of the James Beard award-winning authors of the book “Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World’s Top Wine Professionals.”

An Emmy-winning producer-reporter for “Chronicle” and “CityLine” on the Boston-based WCVB TV Channel 5, Chandra is a general assignment journalist who enjoys producing people profile, travel, and science stories, according to her profile on WCVB TV. The Cambridge , Mass., resident is She is an AAJA New England Board Member at Large, was New England Chapter president from 2002 to 2004, and was co-chair of the 2009 AAJA National Convention. She is recipient of the 2014 Philip S. Weintraub Media Award by The American Society of Anesthesiologists for her segment “A Compassionate Visionary: Dr. Nancy Oriol” on WCVB-TV’s Chronicle.