7 Questions with Maneet Chauhan

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

This October, The Next Iron Chef returns with its fieriest season-to-date. Ten of the country’s most accomplished chefs bet on their skills and put their reputations on the line for the chance to join the industry’s most elite culinary society: the Iron Chefs.  Hosted by Alton Brown and filmed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City, season three premieres Sunday, October 3rd at 9pm ET/PT on Food Network and challenges the chefs’ culinary skills and mental toughness as they enter a clash of culinary titans.

For all the info on the new season of The Next Iron Chef, check out this link (has press release, episode descriptions, bios, video, etc).

The great thing about NIC is that all of the combatants are serious, award winning chefs.  Maneet Chauhan (Chef at Vermillion in Chicago and New York) received her culinary education at India’s Welcome Group Graduate School of Hotel Administration and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Chauhan is at the helm of executing the provocative melding of Indian and Latin cuisines of Vermilion, based on both deep historical and geographical cross-influences. The cuisine is inspired jointly by Maneet’s ongoing research, zest for experimenting and concept originator Rohini Dey’s vision and travels. Since opening, Vermilion has been lauded by USA Today, Esquire, Travel & Leisure, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, and O Magazine among others. Maneet completed internships at India’s finest hotels and kitchens.  In addition to having been an Iron Chef America challenger, Chauhan is an honorary figure and leading volunteer for prestigious culinary schools, industry events, and premier nonprofit foundations.

With the premiere of NIC 3 just days away Chef Maneet Chauhan answers 7 Questions.

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Chef Maneet Chauhan of VermillionI have been cooking for as long as I remember.  Cooking has truly been my first passion.  From an early age I would be intrigued by the various ingredients, spices and methods of cooking.  Every Sunday I would accompany my father to the farmers market and be so fascinated by new ingredients and force 😉 or plead him to buy those so that we could try it at home and then create new dishes with my mom.  I grew up in a small town in eastern India called Ranchi and I was lucky enough to have people from all over India living close to us.  Each and every state in India has a completely unique style of cooking and I would actually spend time at my neighbors house observing them cook.  So for me this life long love for food started at a very early age.   My mom jokes and says that I was born with a ladle in my hand.

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

During my 9th grade my sister went to college, I used to go to meet her and would always take food for her and her friends.  Her friends and she would be overjoyed and seeing that kind of joy that food brought to people was my foundation of deciding that this is something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

I have been deeply influenced by each and every chef or even  cook that I have come across in my journey.  Be it a street food vendor in India, or the executive chef of the biggest hotel chain in India, to my Chef instructors in WGSHA, Manipal (I did my Bachelors in Hotel management there) and the CIA (Hyde Park), from the line cooks to the legends, from the owner of Vermilion – Rohini’s vision to my wonderful group of fellow NIC contestants – each and everyone has influenced me and impacted the way I think and create.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

I don’t, never had a back up career that I saw myself in.

5. How would you describe your cooking style?

At Vermilion the concept of the restaurant and cuisine which was founded by Rohini Dey is Latin and Indian.  That is what we do here, fusing these two bold cuisines to create a remarkable experience.  To me cooking is like life, its all about evolution, about creating something new, that is how I would describe my style of cooking.

6. What motivated you to enter the Next Iron Chef competition?

It is just such an honor to be invited to be a finalist in the competition, who wouldn’t do it. To be considered to be among the top 10 chef’s in the country is indeed a big honor, and who can resist the opportunity to be the “Next Iron Chef”   And I guess all of us who are in this field are glutton for punishment, pushing ourselves further and further to see how we would perform in adverse circumstances

7. What’s next for Chef Maneet Chauhan?

To enjoy this experience thoroughly and use this exposure to educate people on the beauty and complexity of a very unique cuisine – the Indian cuisine, a heritage and a foundation I am very proud of.  To work to bring a respectability to Indian Cuisine which has been so badly represented in the past.  Vermilion has for the past 8 years successfully, bringing people to appreciate bold flavors and to enjoy this amazing fusion of cuisines, we hope to continue this with a flourish and from two cities take it to a few more.

Be sure you check back each Sunday for the NIC Recap.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
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