The rigors that arise from being a research investigator in the department of radiation oncology, dentistry and anesthesiology at the University’s Medical School haven’t prevented, Mahaveer Swaroop Bhojani from also pursuing a culinary career.

Inspired by his Indian roots, Bhojani opened Hut-K Chaats, an Indian restaurant located on Packard Road, last April, as well as a second location more recently at Mark’s Carts, the outdoor food court located in downtown Ann Arbor. While the connection between his highly technical cancer research and his skills in the kitchen may not be immediately obvious to some, he insists his passions are connected.

“What intrigued me in the field of cancer is that food currently is poised to be (a) number one killer,” he explained. “The way we have modified food (means) now food is not doing what it is supposed to do.”

Food quality and nutrition have been linked to concerns about disease, but Bhojani insisted that the correlation is now stronger than ever, particularly due to the easy accessibility to an abundance of unhealthy food options in the United States. Bhojani added he was surprised to see unhealthy food options served at Medical School staff meetings, among doctors and professors who dedicate their work toward healthier living.

After learning the consequences of an unhealthy diet, Bhojani said he was motivated to change the quality of cuisine offered in Ann Arbor. By opening his restaurants, he said he hopes his food will encourage greater nutritional consciousness in the community.

“My intent is to make people proactive, not reactive,” he said. “If you give junk to your body, junk will come back.”

According to Bhojani, Hut-K Chaats is reinventing traditional Indian cuisine by re-evaluating traditional dishes and adding healthier ingredients for necessary nutrition without sacrificing flavor.

“What I serve at the restaurant is not mainstream Indian food,” he said. “We’ve taken Indian street food and taken the junk out of it, and added nutrition.”

Fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains are just a few of the fresh ingredients Bhojani has added to many traditional Indian dishes.

Among his favorites is the “Back 2 Roots” dish, a 13-grain flatbread with spinach, mint, cilantro and carrots.

“In every bite, you get a variety of flavors,” he said.

Despite the success of his two restaurants, Bhojani admits serving healthy food is sometimes a challenge. Many people have told Bhojani that they cherish taste over nutritional value, something he said he takes into consideration when determining recipes.

“The first thing I thought about was taste — keeping that taste constant — (because) people don’t care about the nourishment, they care about taste,” he said.

He added that in working toward balancing between taste and nutrition, Ann Arbor serves as “one of the best towns for experimental food.” As a citizen of the U.S. for the past 10 and a half years, Bhojani said he has always called Ann Arbor home, and he is grateful for the support he has received from the community.

“(There are) a huge number of volunteers who have helped me,” he said. “The customers have been amazing.”

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