Maneet Chauhan, CIA baking and pastry arts alumni, is executive chef at Vermillion.

Alumni Bio: Maneet Chauhan ’00

Baking and Pastry Arts
Partner and President, Morph Hospitality Group
“I received so much support from the faculty. I had an amazing time at the CIA. The CIA was and still is my Disneyland.”

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 addition to judging roles on Food Network, Maneet also competes at the highest level and most recently won Guy Fieri’s Tournament of Champions II. Recently name to Nation’s Restaurant News 2019 Power List, Maneet is the founding partner and president of Morph Hospitality Group in Nashville, TN. The company also owns Chauhan Ale & Masala House, a microbrewery and gastropub with Indian influences; Tansuo, serving contemporary Chinese cuisine; and Mockingbird, a modern diner serving global fare, all of which are located in Nashville. Chef Chauhan is also a co-founder of Hop Springs, home to the state’s largest craft brewery and a fun-filled 84 acre beer park located in Murfreesboro, 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.

Premiering in 2019, Maneet hosts her own television program called Festive Cooking with Maneet on TV Asia featuring wholesome ingredients and festive meals spanning the entire regional cuisine of South Asia. Chauhan is the author of two cookbooks, Flavors of My World and her most recent, Chaat: The Best Recipes from the Kitchens, Markets, and Railways of India, which was released in October 2020 and received the IACP Cookbook Award a year later.

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. “I asked one of my instructors at the hotel school which was the best culinary school in the world and without batting an eye he said the Culinary Institute of America. It was this that started my quest, hunger, and passion to experience this education and I never turned back.” she says.

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. “My experience at the CIA was an extremely valuable one. It provided me the foundation that has brought me to where I am today. I remember walking through the halls in a sensory overload, as I was trying to absorb everything that was around me. The CIA was and still is my Disneyland,” 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. “The energy of the campus and the fact that I was under the same roof with at least 2,000 other people who were as passionate about food as I was, was an incredible feeling-I truly belonged.”

After graduation Maneet 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. 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. During her tenure with these landmark restaurants, they received exceptional reviews from Bon Appétit, USA Today, Time, Esquire, Travel & Leisure, Gourmet, Town & Country, Business Week, and O, The Oprah Magazine, as well as getting a stunning three-star review from the Chicago Tribune.

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. In March 2020, Chauhan founded Hospitality Strong, a nonprofit benefitting hospitality workers in need.

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 restaurants, 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 the only Indian female ever to compete on Food Network’s Next Iron Chef in 2010 and as a contestant on the network’s Chopped All-Stars.

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