Oxford, Miss., is a town steeped in Southern identity.
And there’s the University of Mississippi, known as Ole Miss, a campus once rocked by deadly riots over racial integration. To some, Oxford might seem an unlikely place for a native of India to achieve star status as a chef.
But Vishwesh Bhatt — or Vish, as everyone calls him — isn’t exactly cooking Indian food. He’s the chef at Snackbar, an upscale restaurant that serves Southern and French food with a twist. He uses traditional Southern ingredients, like catfish, grits or mac and cheese — but he prepares them using flavors and techniques of his native India.
Think garam masala home fries, daal hush puppies and his signature dish: okra chaat. Bhatt throws thin slices of okra into a deep-fry basket for about a minute, then tosses them with tomatoes, cilantro, chiles, chopped peanuts, lime juice, salt, pepper and chaat masala, a zesty spice mix used in Indian street food.