Avishar Barua had to modernize one of the least complicated desserts in history.
That's just his style.
The chef of Service Bar at Middle West Spirits is rewriting the script on the modest buckeye for Flavored Nation, an event featuring the most iconic dishes from all 50 states, to be held Aug. 11 and 12 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, 400 N. High St. in downtown Columbus.
"Everyone in town makes a good buckeye," said Barua, one of 13 local chefs and 37 national chefs participating in Flavored Nation. "I didn't want to make theirs. I wanted to make my own."
Typically, a buckeye is a confection made of peanut butter covered in milk chocolate in a manner so it mimics a buckeye nut from Ohio's state tree.
Barua, however, is taking a different approach.
At the center of the bite-sized treat will be vegan peanut ice cream -- that's right, no cream -- featuring roasted peanut oil, tapioca starch (a thickener), xanthan gum (which helps stabilize the emulsification process), peanut butter and water.
The ice cream will be made using liquid nitrogen, which speedily freezes the mixture.
The outer shell will be composed of a liquified chocolate shortbread that rapidly hardens upon contact with the ice cream.
"It's different, for sure," Barua said.
Forget all the mad-scientist stuff: "The most important thing is the flavor," he said.
Barua, who will make 1,200 pieces for the event, said it is a riff on a buckeye dessert now available at Service Bar, 1230 Courtland Ave. in Columbus.
"I'm just proud to be part of the thing," he said of Flavored Nation. "It's cool for people to want to come to Columbus."
Sang Lakhani, chef and owner of the Table, 21 E. Fifth Ave. in Columbus, just down the street from Service Bar, said she is confident Barua would impress the crowd.
"I am a huge fan of Avishar and his cooking," said Lakhani, who will be among the chefs of Flavored Nation, representing Alabama with fried green tomatoes. "I love his quirky take on food. I like his ability to take something that we take for granted, like fast food, and elevate it the way he does."
She said Flavored Nation will be an excellent opportunity to show what Columbus has to offer.
"It is an absolute honor to be part of it and Columbus ought to be proud that we have more of these events happening here," Lakhani said. "Columbus is finally getting the recognition it deserves because we have great (culinary) representation here."
Flavored Nation is an event of GateHouse Media, parent company of Dispatch Media Group, which includes ThisWeek and The Columbus Dispatch.