Maneet Chauhan Says This Is What We're Getting Wrong About Indian Food - Exclusive

Indian American chef Maneet Chauhan, winner of Season 2 of the "Tournament of Champions" and judge on "Chopped," is an expert in the world of Indian cuisine. Throughout her career, she has become an iconic fixture in the culinary world and is known for her delicious Indian dishes. After spending so much time immersed in America's food culture, Chauhan is keenly aware of the Western world's misconceptions surrounding Indian food. But what does she believe the American public gets wrong?

In an exclusive interview just ahead of her appearances at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, she mentioned the idea of buffets and the conception that all Indian food is made up of a lot of grease and oil. "The biggest misconception was [the] $8.95 all-you-can-eat buffet," she told Tasting Table, "and [that] once you eat [Indian food], you will not eat for the next two days because it's greasy and oily. That's not true, because Indian food is so seasonal and light and delicious, and it's so much beyond the saag paneer and the chicken tikka masala."

While Americans still have much to learn about Indian food, Chauhan believes that people are starting to embrace Indian food more and appreciate it for how it really is. "Now, you see the American audience understanding the nuances of different regional Indian cuisine, which makes it so much more interesting and gives us a bigger platform for us to play with different ingredients and techniques," she said — although there are still some misconceptions that are hard to shake.

She's working to show that Indian food is far more than curry powder

Maneet Chauhan believes that American diners are beginning to truly embrace Indian cuisine they might not immediately be familiar with, making it easier for chefs with expertise in Indian food to take center stage and show the world just how delicious it is. With Chauhan's grand influence through her numerous restaurants in Nashville and appearances on popular TV shows, she has become a great ambassador for her native cuisine. She says she's gotten to this point by putting all her effort into everything she creates. "The biggest thing was to make sure that I am cooking the best version of a dish," she told Tasting Table. "That starts by using the best ingredients, be it the produce, the spices, and talking about it and being out there and having people taste the food."

Other than crafting the best possible version of her culinary creations, Chauhan also believes in the importance of ending the misconception that curry powder is the end-all-be-all of Indian food. "The first step is to dispel that misconception that Indian food is all about curry powder," she explained. "If you think about it, traditional Indian food doesn't have anything known as curry powder. That's the first step — being the spokesperson and showing the best and the funnest version of Indian food, and that's what I've been doing for the last 20 years."

Learn more about the South Beach Wine & Food Festival on its website.