Super Chefs of Asheville


"The secret of good cooking is, first, having a love of it…” - James Beard

Chai Pani


The James Beard Foundation is a national non-profit organization that promotes the love of good cooking -  it celebrates the culinary arts by promoting the best chefs, wine professionals, cookbook authors, and restaurants. The James Beard Awards annually acknowledge and honor the best of the best. Past James Beard Award winners in the best chef category include the  Emeril Lagasse, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Wolfgang Puck.

Asheville is a foodie town. Good meals abound. We have many amazing restaurants. We love and celebrate good cooking. We love and celebrate local food. This year, we have even more to celebrate. Out of 35,00 entrants, three of Asheville’s chefs have been nominated for Best Chef in the Southeast Award for 2015 - Katie Button at Curate, John Fleer at Rhubarb, and Meherwan Irani at Chai Pani.

Katie Button is the executive chef at both Curate and its sister-bar Nightbell. Drawing from her experience at the world-renowned Spanish restaurants elBulli, Cafe Atlantico, and Minibar as well as her background in science, her culinary creations are innovate and exciting works of love and art. Katie was nominated for James Beard's "Rising Star Chef of the Year" in 2014. Currently, there is a Curate Cookbook in the works which will feature 125 of Ms. Button's recipes and will show her readers how to create Spanish dishes in their own home. 

John Fleer is both the executive chef and owner of Rhubarb. A NC native, Mr. Fleer worked as the executive chef at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee for 14 years. In that time, he developed and cultivated his "foothills cuisine" local, regional food for a refined, world-class palate. In 1999, he received the coveted James Beard "Rising Star of the 21st Century" Award and is a three-time finalist of the "Best Chef of the Southeast." John Fleer is also the chef and owner of Canyon Kitchen in Cashiers, NC.

Meherwan Irani is the executive chef at Chai Pani. He and his wife, Molly, co-own the restaurant that focuses on fresh, delicious Indian street food. Mr. Irani grew up near Mumbai and learned to cook traditional recipes from his mother. He worked for 15 years in sales and marketing in San Francisco prior to opening Chai Pani Asheville in 2009. In 2013, they opened a second location in Decatur. Their menu is a fusion of Indian tradition and innovation (with a good helping of fun!).  In 2014, Meherwan was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Southeast.

The award winners will be announced at the James Beard House in New York City on Tuesday, March 24. No matter what the outcome, the visitors and residents of Asheville are the real winners because we can dine at these fine restaurants any night of the week.

Plan your next trip to the Asheville area as a culinary expedition. Call our Vacation Planners at Carolina Mornings and reserve the perfect vacation rental. Remember to ask them for their restaurant recommendations too!