Hometown: Berkeley, California
College: New York University
Occupation: student, writer, teacher, but foremost a cook
1. Describe your job in three words: consuming, honest, badass
2. No one has ever described their job as badass. What makes you say that? I think working in the food industry is extremely hard. The hours, the pay….just the sheer heat of the kitchen. That’s why you really have to love it. Not just food or cooking, but the high that a cook gets when plating the food so that it can be served to the guests. It’s indescribable. The food industry is a an industry that provides pleasure. In my eyes, the greatest pleasure on par with sex. Arguably, even more. I believe, eating is the most intimate thing one can do after sex. So the fact that I spent many of my days feeding people and providing them with a kind of pleasure that can tap into their senses, I think it’s pretty bad ass. Or when they’re unsure of what ingredient or flavoring is in a dish, and then when I tell them I get the “Aha!” moment from them. That’s when I know I have done something right. Those “Aha” moments provide me with the fuel to keep going.
3. Whenever people talk about cooking they always seem to talk about their mama. Before we get to you, tell me about your mother’s home cooking. My mother’s home cooking is what ultimately instilled my deep love for food. I grew up in a very middle class background so we ate home most of the time. Being first generation American-my parents are from Iran, I ate Persian food almost everyday. We had incredible stews (Khoresh), polo (saffron rice mixed with a variety of vegetables, fruits or meats), yogurt, torshi (Persian pickles), sabzi khordan (platter of raw herbs). This is the food that I crave. I had to learn to cook most of the dishes in her repertoire for Saveur Magazine because I was consulting them for an article about Persian cuisine. I believe ten of the final recipes were my mother’s. My house has also always been the place where people come together. I remember my mom working in the kitchen for hours cooking for ten, thirty, sometimes upward of fifty to sixty people. On numerous occasions, my extended family would become immediate residences in my house for days, weeks, months and even a few stayed for years! So it was evident that whether it was my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins or just some family friends, there was always an additional someone to feed. Oh, and I just remembered that we have had three wedding ceremonies in my house…so my mother’s cooking is trusted and her hospitality is never ending.
4. Excluding family, if you had a dinner party who would you invite? Anybody! Dead or alive? (laughs) Absolutely anybody! Stefano Pilati, Abbas Kiarostami, Marlon Brando, Vaslav Nijinsky, John Waters, James Baldwin, Fran Lebowitz
and Patti Smith. I don’t think it should be too many people. Let’s toss in Hemingway and Meryl as well. I want it to be a dinner that turns into a party and if there are too many people then it’s just a party all the way through…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
5. What do you think that crew would talk about? Nonsense. We’d all be too drunk I imagine. Except for Ms. Fran Lebowitz her thoughts will never get blurry.
6. What do you think about America and the rise of obesity? I think it’s a huge epidemic that we refuse to acknowledge. We have an eating and drinking problem in this country. We need a system that provides a kind of edible education. We need to think about food, agriculture, and cooking in a different way. We need to take a step back and get away from food out there in no mans land and start thinking of ourselves as part of a community. It’s not shocking for me to see kids eating a bag of chips and soda on the subway at 10 AM. I think we need to go into the public school system and educate our future generation about what we eat, how, and where it is grown. We find the money to pay for our iPhones, designer shoes etc and we put food as a last priority when it should really be at the top. We need to nourish our bodies, but also support the farmers that are maintaining stewardship of the land. We need to provide them and their workers with wages that they deserve. It’s a subject that touches on many issues and is overwhelming to look at, but it’s a subject we must engage with to figure out better solutions… we literally cannot not think about what we put in our bodies.
7. Thanksgiving is Thursday. I want to know what you’re thankful for. I am thankful for my high points thus far, but more importantly my low points which have made me stronger than I ever could have imagined. I am also thankful for my family and friends for which, I am forever indebted to and to the city of New York for being so good to me. Oh, and my friend Nick Ryan has to be at the dinner. He is a must!
8. And what’s on the menu? What are you cooking? Well I never go home for Thanksgiving since I moved to New York, but this year is the first. My parents are having it at their place. I’m taking care of everything except for the turkey and dessert-I arrive Wednesday afternoon so the dessert duties were given to my two aunts. I’m making: cranberries with poached quince and kumquats, Sweet Potato gratin with Pecan crumble.
9. Favorite place to travel? Paris because I can indulge like no other place. Berlin because I can party there like no other. However, Spain, Japan- well Asia in general, and Northern Europe for food. Yet, the next place I plan to go to will be Iran. fjgjgjfdghfdghjghghjhjgjhjhgg
10. In ten years you will be…having made it in New York.