Meet the Maker
In 2009, Meherwan Irani quit his day job in sales to open his first restaurant – Chai Pani, a unique Indian street food joint in downtown Asheville. Whether it was a midlife crisis or a stroke of genius is debatable. Since then, the self-taught chef has opened four restaurants, one bar, and now, Spicewalla. With four James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast under his belt, he’s finally confident this might just be working out. His restaurants have been written up in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ, Food & Wine, Saveur, USA Today, and Bon Appétit, among others.
Growing up in India, Meherwan noticed that spices, like produce, are part of the natural rhythm of the seasons. Seeds are planted, and grow until procured at different times of the year. Then they're used in making blends and masalas. The entire family is involved in this process. Each family’s blend is distinctive and a source of pride. Every fall, a whole week was dedicated to making their own dhansak masala in Meherwan’s grandmother's home.
“Whole spices were brought to our home, often in jute sacks from the spice merchants. For days the air would be heady with the scent of roasting coriander, mace, cumin, and cinnamon. After the spices were roasted and cooled, we would blend and grind them in our old, large hand grinder using recipes written on scraps of paper that my grandmother would keep in a box in her dresser."
Many of these recipes are handed down for generations. In this case from Meherwan’s grandmother, down to his mother, and eventually passed on to Meherwan. When Chai Pani first opened, Meherwan’s mom came to the U.S. and spent two months teaching the staff of Chai Pani about her blends and how to work with spices. Now Meherwan has found his own tradition as a chef and his spice blends reflect that journey.
Spicewalla sets itself apart by being chef-driven, making fresh, small batch blends that are packed and processed by hand. Unlike may of their competitors, they are affordable and sourced directly from quality suppliers. Many grocery store spices take two years to get from a port to your kitchen shelf. Spicewalla is looking to change that, bringing you fresh spices at an unmatched level of quality!