Maneet Chauhan

Chef Maneet Chauhan’s book “Flavors of My World,” best portrays her culinary approach—a deep pride in representing her Indian culinary heritage, as well as a love and panache of using spices in an elevated platform, while incorporating the culinary influences of her journeys and experiences. 

A recognized cookbook author, TV personality, active philanthropist and chef/owner of Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, Chef Chauhan is most recently known for her work on Food Network’s “Chopped” where she sits on the permanent panel of judges and is a James Beard Award for Excellence recipient. She has also competed on “Iron Chef” against Chef Morimoto as well as “The Next Iron Chef” competition.

As a Culinary Institute of America graduate, Chef Chauhan has worked in some of the finest hotels and restaurants in her home country of India and in America. As an Executive Chef she has worked in such successful ventures as Vermillion in Chicago and New York City where she won Best New Chef for her efforts.

In 2014, Chef Chauhan was invited to the White House by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as part of the Easter Egg Roll Hunt. She is an invited member of Indiaspora - an organization with the top 100 influential Indian American's in the U.S., sits on the Board of Society of Fellows of Culinary Institute of America and is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier.

Chef Chauhan has been heavily lauded by the media in the U.S. and abroad including Bon Appetit, Wine Enthusiast, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, New York Post, Times of India, The Telegraph, Crain's Business, O- The Oprah Magazine, Fortune Small Business and many more. Her multiple TV appearances include ABC's “The View”, NBC’s “TODAY,” Lifetime Channel's “Designing Spaces”, and Fox News.

Chef Chauhan’s first venture into restaurant ownership, Chauhan Ale & Masala House, opened in October 2014 and is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. Chauhan Ale & Masala House is devoted to creating a unique dining experience in the bustling Nashville food scene. The menu is globally influenced Indian cuisine that highlights a number of aspects of the culinary scene not only in Mumbai or New Delhi, but Nashville as well, perfectly combining Indian cuisine with traditional Southern dishes.

In 2015, Chef Chauhan launched Mantra Artisan Ales with award-winning Brewmaster Derrick Morse. Located in Franklin, Tenn., the boutique craft beer brewery and taproom produces globally inspired, high-quality craft beers with daring flavor profiles ranging from a classic Belgian style amber to a unique Indian-inspired milk chai stout.

Locally, Chef Chauhan was the 2016 Event Chair for March of Dimes Signature Chef Auction and selected as one of The Nashville Business Journal’s 40 under 40 list, as well as Nashville Lifestyles Women in Business, which honored local women who are at the top of their industry.

Chef Chauhan currently resides in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and two children. She is committed to her new Southern home, forming Nashville-based Morph Hospitality Group in 2016. The group recently opened Tansuo, a contemporary Chinese restaurant, and is set to open The Mockingbird, an elevated diner concept this spring.

Chef Chauhan’s ongoing research, trials, travels and zest for experimentation keeps her at the forefront of cutting-edge cuisine. Her energy and creativity, combined with polished culinary skills and the courage to follow her passion, have proven to be the right ingredients for success.

Billy Dec

Billy Dec is a two-time Emmy Award Winning Entertainment TV Personality, Actor, Attorney at Law, and CEO/Founder of Rockit Ranch, a premier hospitality & entertainment company operating award winning restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Dec is regularly seen on NBC's Today Show and acting on shows like Empire, Criminal Minds, Chicago Fire & American Crime Story. He is now also producing movies with his recently formed production company, Elston Films.

Dec is a Presidential appointee serving on the White House Advisory Commission on Asian American & Pacific Islanders & the White House Bullying Prevention Task Force. His educational background includes the Chicago-Kent College of Law & the Harvard Business School. He received the “Excellence in Business Award” from the State of Illinois, and the State’s Attorney’s Community Leadership Award. Dec is also an active philanthropist, having focused his efforts over the years in various organizations like The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Make-A-Wish®, Lookingglass Theatre, and formerly served as the Director of Cultural Relations for the 2016 Olympic Committee.

Andrew Little

Chef Little’s cooking revolves around roots, whether they are the turnips and carrots he plucks from the ground or the historical recipes he notably revitalized during his tenure in the Pennsylvania Dutch farm country, where he grew up. Seasonal and spontaneous, Little’s ground-to-gourmet plates create a visceral experience, always meant to tell a story behind the meal.

Little graduated from the Culinary Institute of America after foregoing his original plan to be a classical musician. He was first introduced to the culinary world as a waiter paying his way through college. At the time, other chefs often shooed Little out of the kitchen, where he would linger in attempts to learn by osmosis and observation. A fan of the speed, teamwork and camaraderie between the chefs, Little’s first kitchen position at a country club inspired his decision to dive headfirst into the industry. “The life of any musician is working nights, weekends, and holidays”, explains the chef, “so jumping into a restaurant career held no major differences.”

From day one of culinary school, Little knew he wanted to work alongside the venerable Patrick O’Connell at The Inn at Little Washington. Little departed after a year at the Inn with new tricks in his apron and a lifelong motivation to elevate every diner’s experience. A lauded stint at Pennsylvania’s Evermay on the Delaware (3 Bells from Craig LaBan in the Philadelphia Inquirer) eventually led him back to his hometown to spearhead the fine dining restaurant at The Sheppard Mansion.

In three years as the chef and general manager at Josephine, Little has refined these principles and created a style of cuisine that is unique to Nashville where he blends classical French training with regional raw ingredients while exploring the Pennsylvania Dutch foodways of his youth.  Esquire magazine food writer Josh Ozersky lauded Little’s scrapple as ‘one of the best things he’s ever eaten’ and Nashville Lifestyles magazine named Josephine Nashville’s best restaurant in its April 2016 issue.

Looking to reveal the face behind his food, the chef is passionate about preserving every animal organ and fruit rind, continuously relying on curiosity and conservation to bring out the natural charisma of his ingredients. Little wants to diverge from mindless munching to let Josephine diners see the beauty behind every beet, carrot or cut of beef. By connecting the dots and paying deference to those who raise his cattle and plow the fields where his ingredients are grown, Little puts a lot of himself into every course. “When you cook so personally, he says, “you have to inject a bit of who you are because your life experiences play into it so much.”

Rob Newton

Robert Newton is the chef and owner of Nightingale Nine, Wilma Jean. At Nightingale Nine, Newton looks to both his years of travel throughout Asia and his Arkansas roots to create memorable dining experiences that feature his distinct and locally sourced interpretations of the diverse cuisines of Asia and the American South. Wilma Jean, a casual Southern spot named for his grandmother focuses on Southern staples while mixing in playful interpretations of classics. Both are located in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Newton is also the consulting chef for the newly opened Black Walnut in Boerum Hill, also in Brooklyn.

Newton and his restaurants have been featured in The New York Times, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine and Garden & Gun and on The Barefoot Contessa. He has earned a reputation for supporting Brooklyn greenmarkets and tri-state area farms and for championing American wines, especially those from New York and Virginia.

Newton, who believes a commitment to local includes community involvement, is a supporter of the student vegetable garden program at P.S. 58 and of Carroll Park, both located across the street from his restaurants. Among the special events he has participated in are the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, Blackberry Farm’s Taste of the South, Le Fooding, Bon Appetit’s Grub Crawl, Charleston Wine + Food, and the NYC Wine & Food Festival.

Lisa White

In March 2008, while walking the isolated trails of Camino de Compostela, Lisa White smelled the scent of intoxicating village baked goods, which after tasting reawakened her passion for baking. When she returned to the States, she made the decision to go to culinary school in her late 30s and enrolled in the accelerated Baking and Pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

While attending the program, she worked at the Wine Spectator restaurant, baking bread at night. After leaving the CIA, she landed a position as a pastry cook with Della Fattoria in Petaluma, California. It was there that White's nascent passion for farm-to-table cooking grew as she worked with founder and owner Kathleen Weber.

In April 2009, she felt drawn back to New Orleans – a city she’d first come to know as a Red Cross Volunteer after Hurricane Katrina. After arriving in New Orleans, White began working for John Besh, a chef she had always admired for his work to help feed the community in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. She quickly earned a pastry position at his flagship Restaurant August, where she continued to impress the group with her baking skills. From there she became part of the opening team at Domenica, where her role expanded into many areas from bread, pastry and pasta production to house-made liqueurs and pickling. In 2015, White opened Willa Jean Bakery along with Chef Kelly Fields where she helmed the restaurant’s bread and pastry programs. This earned White recognition from Eater NOLA as the 2016 “Chef of the Year.”  

After her success with Willa Jean, White was appointed a role within Our House Hospitality, a new division of John Besh Restaurant Group that oversees food and beverage operations for the group’s growing list of hotel-based properties. In 2017, she moved to Nashville to build the pastry program for all three concepts at Thompson Nashville: Marsh House seafood restaurant, Killebrew coffee shop, and L.A. Jackson, the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant.

White is deeply committed to making the world around her a better place and dedicates her time, energy and talents to several causes. In 2017, she will once again participate in Chefs Cycle, a three day 300 mile bike ride to raise funds and awareness for No Kid Hungry. She works closely with the John Besh Foundation (JBF) through her dedicated mentorship of the Chef’s Move! scholarship program recipients and through working with farmers who have received micro-loans under the Milk Money program. Lisa is also a board member at The Please Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing scholarships to underprivileged children in New Orleans. She’s the proud pet parent to Millie, an English Bulldog rescue White adopted following the 2016 floods in Baton Rouge.

Karl Worley

Karl Worley by Andrea Behrends copy.jpg

Growing up in Bristol, Tennessee, Karl Worley‘s earliest memories are food memories. He spent much of his childhood in delis, first in his grandfather’s, who was a chef in World War II, and then the deli where his mother worked.  Karl reminisces fondly about the days when local farmers brought their hog-killing bounty to his house as well as huge country breakfasts around the table on weekends. As a young man, he learned that cooking impressed the ladies, so on trips home, he had his mother teach him family recipes.

In 2001, Karl moved to Nashville where he met his future wife, Sarah. When he learned that she was leaving for Denver, Colorado to attend culinary school, he took a chance and followed her. They attended Johnson & Wales’ College of Culinary Arts and where Karl’s childhood passion for food was reignited at age 30. He spent time honing his skills at local country clubs and Mediterranean restaurant Rioja Denver.

Karl and Sarah married in 2009 and moved to North Carolina to finish school at Johnson & Wales’ Charlotte campus. While working at Coon Rock Farm in Durham, Karl fully embraced the area’s early adoption of sustainable agriculture and farm-to-table restaurants. After graduating in 2010, the Worleys welcomed their baby girl, Gertie. With a desire to be closer to home, the family moved back to Nashville with a dream of opening their own food truck selling scratch-made biscuits and biscuit sandwiches. They were able to borrow a truck from a friend, and after three months of menu planning and strategizing, Biscuit Love Food Truck was born. After a successful three year run, the Worleys were offered the opportunity to open a brick-and-mortar Biscuit Love, which opened in the heart of Nashville’s The Gulch neighborhood in 2015.

At Biscuit Love, Karl leads the charge in the kitchen as executive chef. His childhood and travel memories served as inspiration when creating the menu. Biscuit Love’s Angel Biscuits are an ode to his grandmother, who he cooked beside as a young boy.  Karl also draws inspiration from those who came before him with dishes like his shrimp and grits inspired by renowned Southern chef Bill Neal. Karl believes in not only nurturing guests, but also their staff. He and Sarah work hard to create opportunity for all their employees through living wages and a compassionate culture.

Outside of the kitchen, you can find Karl spending time with his family and collecting cookbooks and recipe boxes (over a thousand from garage sales throughout the years!). He cares deeply about the resurgence of Appalachia, and participates in events to further the cause, such as the Appalachian Food Summit.

Erik Niel

Erik Niel was raised in Mandeville, Louisiana, a community on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain and an hour away from the Gulf. He describes it as a place where people care deeply about food, and everyone has that special dish they’re known for throughout the community. “In Southern Louisiana, food is a soulful thing. I still remember who made the best gumbos, and who made the best roasts.” Niel spent many an afternoon fishing with his dad and brother in the fresh water near Mandeville, driving west to Calcasieu Lake (where his dad was raised) to fish in salt water, and duck hunting in Cameron Parish. Using techniques passed down from his parents and grandparents and experimenting on his own, Niel learned to cook from his catch – gumbos, stews, étouffée, and pot roasts – and how to serve them in various ways. This instilled in him an appreciation for where food comes from and the process of preparing it from beginning to end, something that influences his cooking to this day.

Niel attended The University of Texas at Austin as a Psychology major and Business minor. He liked the calculated nature of business and knew he wanted to own his own one day. However, his love and appreciation for food and restaurants persisted, and even in college when he entertained for friends or cooked for parties, food was never far from his mind. After summers of working in restaurants and getting the feel for the industry, Niel decided that food was his muse. He enrolled in culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Vail, Colorado, and applied to work at Sweet Basil, a restaurant notoriously resistant to hiring students. He landed the job, and credits the experience with cultivating his appreciation for a formal kitchen and respect for ingredients.

While Niel was in culinary school, his family transitioned to Chattanooga from Louisiana. His brother tragically broke his back during his junior year football season, and they weren’t sure he would lead a normal life again. It was a turning point for Niel, as he realized he’d never seen his brother play football, and when his brother healed enough to play as a senior Niel packed his bags for Chattanooga.  He landed a job as a Floor Manager at the now-closed Southside Grill, with the promise that he could have Friday nights off to see his brother’s football games. Niel didn’t miss a single game that fall. Thinking he would leave at the end of football season, Erik met his future-wife Amanda (a hostess at Southside Grill) and started realizing the potential of owning a business in Chattanooga. After two years as sous chef at Chattanooga mainstay, St. John’s, Niel began writing his business plan.  

In May of 2005, the couple opened Easy Bistro & Bar in downtown Chattanooga, named after his laidback nature and uncanny ability to make the hard work of a restaurant look easy. Here, Niel draws inspiration from both traditional approaches and new techniques. He enhances elements of classic French and Southern cuisines with fresh combinations and ideas, while maintaining the most important principle that “taste can never be sacrificed for presentation or a wow-factor – it must simply taste good, always.” While his style of cooking is a direct product of growing up in Louisiana, he tends to stay away from the rich sauces and rouxes of traditional Creole cuisine. He describes his food as minimalist, letting the ingredients stand for themselves with little manipulation. In 2016, Niel was voted “Chef of the Year” by the Tennessee Tourism & Hospitality Association, and he’s been named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast for two years in a row (2016-2017).

Niel also spearheads the wine program at Easy Bistro & Bar, pushing himself to find unique expressions and stories through wine and food pairings. He feels strongly that wine and other beverages are an integral and often overlooked part of the meal and experience, a passion inherited from his father, a connoisseur and avid wine collector. The restaurant currently offers a wine list with 250 global wines focusing on France and California.  

In October 2014, Niel and his wife Amanda assumed operations of Main Street Meats, a neighborhood butcher shop that works closely with Chattanooga’s surrounding farmland. As Chef/Operator, Niel uses craft butcher techniques to offer quality products and a strong charcuterie program, all exploring the distinctive flavors of the region.  

When he has a moment outside the kitchen, he can usually be found playing with his son, Cade.  They enjoy playing in the park, fishing in Louisiana with Erik’s Dad “PawPaw”, and walking in the woods.

Pat Martin

One of the country’s most renowned pitmasters, Pat Martin is self-taught, having learned the art and craft of West Tennessee-style smoke and meat in the tiny town of Henderson, before making Nashville his home. West Tennessee's legendary whole-hog Bar-B-Que tradition is the cornerstone of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint.

The restaurants have been featured on the Food Network's popular broadcast, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” and in publications such as Bon Appetit, Esquire, Conde Nast Traveler and Men's Journal. Pat is a member of the Fatback Collective, a group of restaurateurs, chefs, farmers and writers advocating the benefits of heritage breed livestock. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Martha Ann, and their three children, Wyatt, Daisy and Walker.