From India to the American South, chef Vishwesh Bhatt melds unique flavors

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"Sometimes the best food ideas come from the simplest things if you're just observing them," says Chef Vishwest Bhatt of a peanut pie reminiscent of Famers' Coke, whereby a farmer would add a snack to his beverage to free up a hand to steer the tractor. Photo by Angie Mosier.

When Vishwesh Bhatt moved to Mississippi from his native Gujarat, India, he didn't intend to cook, but he fell into a unique career, melding the food of his new home with the spices of the one he left behind.

Bhatt defines himself as a Southern chef, learning to cook after he moved to the South, taking with him only a handful of recipes from his mother's kitchen. He shares his love of peanuts and their ubiquitousness in India. "When we went to the movies in India, here you would buy popcorn, there you would buy roasted peanuts. I have a deep, almost dangerous love of peanuts," he says.

His cookbook is "I Am From Here: Stories and Recipes from a Southern Chef," winner of the 2023 James Beard Award for U.S. Foodways.

"I learned to cook in the South, I just happened to be someone from India so I had a knowledge of certain spices so I could season things a little differently," says chef Vishwesh Bhatt. Photo by Angie Mosier.

Vishwesh Bhatt chose to make the South his home and it is there he learned to cook. His collection of recipes is "I Am From Here." Photo courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc..