Hospitality Director & Co-Founder
Molly Irani grew up in the restaurant business. Her parents owned a popular restaurant in the south-east and from as far back as she can remember, Molly has been in and around food, kitchens, cooking, and restaurants. She brings a deep and intuitive understanding of service, hospitality, and customer care to the culture of the teams she helps to build. Her many years of traveling in India and being part of an Indian family infuse her love of the culture and influence the Chai Pani aesthetic and environment. While Molly has worn many hats over the years as co-founder of Chai Pani, her primary role now is Director of Hospitality for the Chai Pani Restaurant Group, though her favorite role will always be the Chai Pani "mom" - delivering hugs and chocolate when most needed.
Executive Chef, Chief Chaiwalla & Founder
In 2009, Irani quit his day job in sales to open his first restaurant– Chai Pani, a unique Indian street food joint in downtown Asheville. Whether it was a midlife crisis or a stroke of genius is debatable. In any case, the self-taught chef has now opened his fifth place, with more on the way. With four James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast under his belt, he's finally confident this might be working out. His restaurants have been written up in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ, Food & Wine, Men's Health, USA Today, and Bon Appétit, among others. Not bad for a former salesman. He accredits his business success to the amazing people he works with each day, including his business partner and wife, Molly.
VP Executive Operations
Charlotte joined the team in 2010 when Chai Pani had yet to expand beyond it's original 40 seat restaurant in downtown Asheville, and pretty much right out of the gate it was apparent she should be running the place. Charlotte keeps everyone in line (even Meherwan!) and on task in a way only she could. In her day-to-day role she oversees the entire restaurant group staff and operations with her signature style of sweetness and accountability. Charlotte has traveled to India her whole life, and dreams of one day returning to do something with kids. She lives on the south side of Asheville, with her husband, 2 dogs, and 1 cat, all of whom give her great joy: Andrew, Bonnie, Doug, and Millard.
Michael made a life for himself eagerly traveling all over the world before finally being convinced to stay in one place for more than a year– by helping open a little restaurant called Chai Pani. He initially joined up with Meherwan and Molly Irani in 2009 under the guise of finalizing a logo for Chai Pani, and has since gone on to do every job there is in the restaurant business, even helping to open every restaurant in the Chai Pani Restaurant Group. Having worked at a top contemporary art gallery in Mumbai, Michael has a long-standing deep love and connection to India that comes through in his design of the Chai Pani spaces. His work also focuses on communicating the mission of bringing Indian street food to the US audience, very often through various forms of art and video that seek to capture that unique and irreverent Indian spirit.
VP Restaurant Operations
In 2009, Meherwan, a high-end real estate salesman with no experience in the restaurant industry, somehow convinced a young school teacher named Isaac to invest his life savings in the idea of opening an Indian street food restaurant in a small mountain town in the South. Crazy as that seemed back then, things seem to be working out OK for the both of them. Isaac has traveled to India his whole life and has a deep love for Indian food and its people. Prior to helping open Chai Pani, he spent years leading groups of gap-year students on long and immersive journeys to India. Isaac is admired by his staff for his gracious leadership and "island of calm" sensibility, even in the face of all the madness the restaurant world can throw at you.
Kady formally joined the Chai Pani team in 2015, but has been a part of the family for quite some time. Since coming on board, Kady has been hugely instrumental in helping the group to expand and keep an unfathomable amount of balls successfully juggled in the air at any given time. Kady originally comes from sunny Florida, but has since grown quite fond of her adopted mountain town of Asheville. She lives in a quaint but chic house in the country that she renovated with her boyfriend James (pictured below). Together they enjoy Blue Ridge mountain sunsets, gardening, their two dog-children, a couple of horse neigh-bors, and a glass of bubbly or two.
Chef de Cuisine (Botiwalla)
Most people who meet him would say there's no one quite like Daniel Peach. He's blond-haired, blue-eyed, but basically an Indian at his core. Daniel moved to Asheville when he was 19 and was one of the first four people hired to open the kitchen at Chai Pani Asheville more than six years ago. Driven by a love for the food, people, and spirituality of India, Daniel has traveled on his own to India for long stints multiple times. In the process, he's taught himself to read and write Hindi, and cooked in scores of home kitchens. Daniel headed up the opening of the kitchen at Chai Pani Decatur, and continues to earn accolades for the food his diverse team of cooks produces.
Spicewalla Operations Director
James first fell in love with cooking when he moved to Boone, NC to study accounting at ASU. He found himself with a job at a little family restaurant named Pepper's. He was so hooked that he changed careers and the trajectory of his life. From there he got a job as a dishwasher at the fine dining Crestwood restaurant, and within two years worked his way up to sous chef. In Asheville, fate and Chai Pani's good fortune landed him in 20 hours of interviews for the soon to open restaurant. He was finally hired as one of only 4 kitchen members. Now, as the Chef de Cuisine, he oversees a staff of 20. Since the Cutting Chai trip, he continued to venture to India on his own to keep his street food chops up. And, more importantly, he still loves waking up at 7am to cook daal.
Chef/Pit Master - Partner (Buxton Hall Barbecue)
Elliott Moss is a son of the low country of South Carolina. The rich characters, humble attitude, and low country cuisine he grew up with very much influence his approach to cooking today. Having paid his dues for years in the food industry, it was a move to Asheville to helm the kitchen at The Admiral that brought him regional and national attention as one of the most acclaimed chefs in the area, earning rave reviews from The New York Times, GQ Magazine, Food & Wine Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Conde Nast, and many more regional & national publications. He was nominated for the James Beard Award for “Best Chef Southeast” in 2013 during his stint at the Admiral, and continues to garner accolades now that he's opened his dream restaurant, Buxton Hall Barbecue, with the Chai Pani Restaurant Group.
Media and Communications Director
Molly joined Chai Pani Restaurant Group in summer of 2017 and she couldn't be happier! Prior to her work at Chai Pani, Molly worked primarily in the nonprofit world, both locally and internationally. At CPRG, you'll find her chatting it up with media over a cup of chai and chaat, photographing the latest dishes for social media, writing internal newsletters to keep employees in the loop on all the fun happenings at CPRG, planning events, and wrangling Meherwan's fun and crazy ideas into reality. Molly lives in West Asheville, with her fiancé, Daniel, and her labradoodle-mutt, Arlo.