Service Bar, located within the Middle West Spirits distillery, is known for delivering an innovative experience by drawing “deeper connections between food and spirits.” Avishar Barua, the General Manager and Executive Chef at Service Bar, recently had the exciting opportunity to compete and represent Columbus on season 18 of Bravo’s Top Chef. We got the chance to speak with Barua about Service Bar, his Top Chef journey, and more.  

Service Bar History

When Barua first started experimenting with food as a college student, he quickly realized he was not only cooking for sustenance, but also to bring people joy by creating dishes from raw ingredients. Cooking allowed him to brighten someone’s day and give them a memorable experience, which is what ultimately led him to pursue a culinary arts career and eventually end up as the Executive Chef at Service Bar. 

Service Bar started off with a very limited menu, but it expanded over time as guest-favorite specials were added. Since some people respond better to visuals rather than verbal descriptions, Service Bar created an Instagram page (@secretkitchenmenu) for the menu that allows guests to see what a dish looks like before ordering it. They also make sure to ask guests if they have any dietary restrictions since many of their dishes can be made with their own gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Barua believes there’s no reason someone should miss out on an enjoyable meal simply because of dietary restrictions. “We are big on supporting the idea that the guest of our restaurant is the guest at our house. We want to do everything we can to create an enjoyable experience within our bounds,” he said.

Barua describes the Short North Arts District as one of the best neighborhoods Service Bar could’ve opened in, especially since guests are often genuinely curious and ask questions about recipes or the inspiration behind a particular dish. Many guests also come in and ask them to prepare a dish the way the chefs would eat it, which gives them the freedom to offer food with more authentic seasonings and spices. “We love being part of a community that loves us and couldn’t ask for a better place to be,” Barua said.  

Top Chef Experience

There’s nothing that can truly prepare anyone to compete on Top Chef, according to Barua, but his experience as an active member of a restaurant family certainly played an important role during his time on the show. At Service Bar, he’s learned how to be both an effective member of a team and someone who can function independently, which is similar to how the Top Chef competition works. He’s grateful that he had the opportunity to join a new family of chefs and producers during the once-in-a-lifetime experience, all while being the first contestant to represent the city of Columbus. 

The lessons he learned and the people he met during his time on Top Chef inspire Barua every day. Part of their cooking style at Service Bar is to try to learn and improve over time, so he’s thankful to be surrounded by people who care as much as he does about hospitality and the ability to help guests create new memories through food. “We discovered that while the food is the foundation of our experience, our guests and the interactions we have with them make everything worth it,” Barua said.

Service Bar and Middle West Spirits are located at 1230 Courtland Avenue.