In his new Discovery Plus special “Luda Can’t Cook”, Atlanta rapper and restaurateur Chris Bridges, better known as Ludacris, hopes to improve his kitchen skills with a little help from Chai Pani and Botiwalla chef Meherwan Irani. The show, which also features Bhojanic chef Archna Malhotra Becker, was shot at Chai Pani in Decatur and other locations throughout Atlanta.
The one-hour episode features Bridges, who humbly admits he’s no whiz in the kitchen, cooking up chicken and potatoes for the chef before attempting to cook a menu of Indian dishes guided by a very patient Irani for a roomful of VIPs and his mother, Roberta.
Call it a teachable moment for the rapper as he receives constructive cooking criticism from the four-time James Beard Award nominee throughout the episode. This includes Irani appearing astounded by the amount of spices Bridges rubs on the chicken, instructing him not to use the bottom of a pan as a lid, and telling the rapper a cake frosting spreader isn’t a viable substitute for a spatula.
Bridges wants the show to be a relatable experience for people like himself who love food and appreciate “the art of cooking” but are afraid they can’t cook, when all it really comes down to is learning the basics and building a bit of kitchen confidence.
“Luda Can’t Cook” begins streaming on Discovery Plus Thursday, February 25.
The rapper-turned-restaurateur opened the wildly successful Chicken + Beer, named for his 2003 double-platinum album of the same name, on Concourse D at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport five years ago. The menu features a selection of craft beer and fried chicken dishes and sandwiches and other Southern staples, like catfish, collard greens, and deviled eggs. Bridges closed his midtown Atlanta restaurant Straits in 2012 to focus on Chicken + Beer.
Atlanta chefs Todd Richards and Joshua Lee, the owners of East Lake barbecue restaurant Lake and Oak and Krog Street Market food stall Soul: Food and Culture, first worked together in the kitchen at Chicken + Beer. The chefs next venture together, a Japanese sushi and soul food restaurant called Kuro, replaces Hazel Jane’s wine bar this spring at the Edge complex along the Eastside Beltline trail.
Like so many chefs and restaurant owners throughout the country struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, it’s been a rollercoaster year for Irani.
The chef temporarily closed the Decatur Chai Pani location last April following the passage of the first CARES relief bill, which included an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits for three months. Irani had kept the Indian street food restaurant open for takeout throughout March because most of his staff couldn’t afford to live off the maximum unemployment benefits offered in Georgia at the time. Employees volunteered to pick up shifts to earn what little they could, and Irani made sure at least one meal a day was offered to his entire staff.
Irani later launched a delivery and takeout service called “Chai Pani Take Home” selling prepared dishes such as packs of samosas, curries, and mango and sweet lassis via online Indian grocery marketplace Subziwalla.
Chai Pani, which first opened in Asheville, North Carolina, has since reopened its Decatur restaurant for takeout and delivery with seating on the patio. Dine-in service could resume in May, a representative tells Eater.
Prior to the pandemic, Irani was in the process of rapidly expanding his Indian street food empire to include three more metro Atlanta Botiwalla locations beyond Ponce City Market, with several more planned for other cities throughout the Southeast. The health crisis forced the closure of Botiwalla in Alpharetta and halted most of the expansion, save the opening of Botiwalla at the Optimist food hall in Charlotte, North Carolina.