The long, complicated history of cinnamon starts in Sri Lanka (once called Ceylon), where it grew originally before becoming prized around the world as a preservative and medicine—worth so much that it was often traded as a commodity. (Wars were fought over control of the source!) Made from the inner bark of the tropical cinnamon tree, the curled stick is the foundation of both Chinese Five Spice powder and iconic American apple pie.
In 2009, Meherwan 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. Since then, the self-taught chef has opened four restaurants, one bar, and now, Spicewalla. With five James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast under his belt, he’s finally confident this might just be working out. His restaurants have been written up in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ, Food & Wine, Saveur, USA Today, and Bon Appétit, among others.