After five years as a bridesmaid, Vishwesh Bhatt of Oxford’s Snackbar has earned one of the culinary world’s highest honors, winning the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the South.
Bhatt had been nominated five times in the past for his work at Snackbar, a Southern-French brasserie hybrid. This year Bhatt, the only Mississippi chef nominated, beat out several well-known Southern chefs, including Slade Rushing of Brennan’s in New Orleans and Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery, also in New Orleans.
Bhatt, a native of India, has worked as a chef in Oxford for over 20 years. Last year he told Mississippi Today that he thinks of himself as a Southern chef because his style of cooking represents where he is now, but references his Indian roots.
“My heritage and where I grew up is very much a part of me, but this is home and this is what I do. I’m a Southern chef. I’m from here. I’ve spent more time here than anywhere else,” he said.
In his acceptance speech Bhatt thanked another Mississippi chef John Currance. He began his career at Currance’s City Grocery, also in Oxford. City Grocery Group owns Snackbar.