Before opening the much-beloved Sapphire in Laguna Beach, owner and chef Azmin Ghahreman was the executive chef of the four restaurants at St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa in Dana Point. Before that, the well-traveled, Iran-born chef studied at Collège Du Léman in Versoix, Switzerland, and California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.
He has also cooked for kings and presidents, and for Part Two of our series, we ask him what the first George Bush asked for him to cook and whether he knew to hold the broccoli. First, we ask him to answer our standard set of not-so-probing questions.
What are six words to describe your food?
Global, fresh, harmonious, balanced, pleasing, comfortable.
What are 10 words to describe you?
Honest, worldly, passionate, spontaneous, precise, determined, philanthropic, hospitable, gentle, family-oriented.
Your best recent food find:
Wild Canadian snow goose.
Rules of conduct in your kitchens:
In the kitchen, the chef is always right; the only one who knows better than the chef is the guest.
One food you detest:
As a chef, you learn to appreciate everything. You're tasting food all the time. Sweet and sour dishes are generally not to my liking, but I could never say I detested any kind of food.
One food you can't live without:
In general, I would say salt. For me, personally, grilled meat.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Potential customers and clients. People in Orange County tend to be well-traveled, and I have found most to be very open-minded and willing to try new things. Give people a chance. I really do love the people here.
What fast food do you admit to eating?
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
When you check your dish and you think it needs another minute, whether it be boiling pasta or roasting meat, take it out of the oven or off the stove. Remember that it will keep cooking for a little while after you remove it from heat.
Table 11 in my restaurant with good friends who have made my place their after-work hangout. After we close, I collect three rose petals from our entryway and bring them home to my three children. When I talk to them on the phone to say good night, they always ask me: "Daddy, will you bring me a rose petal?" How could I not?
If you could cook for one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My dad, who passed away 20 years ago. My cooking and my life are two sides of the same coin--I would love to show my dad what I can cook and what I have done with my life.
Favorite celebrity chef.
Celebrity chef who should shut up:
I'll be diplomatic here and say, "No comment."
Proudest moment as a chef:
Opening my restaurant, Sapphire Laguna, on Feb. 21, 2007.
Favorite music to cook by:
Best food city in America:
No city I have ever been to can top San Francisco.
Favorite restaurant in America:
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What you'd like to see more of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
More authentic kitchens.
What you'd like to see less of in Orange County from a culinary standpoint:
Chain restaurants and fast food.
The Culinaria Series covers everything! From meats and poultries to appetizers and desserts, this series of cookbooks has it all.
When you're not in the kitchen cooking, what are you doing?
Dreaming about being in the kitchen cooking as well as creating new recipes.