The gorgeous Zardosht sisters, Soli and Sanaz, were on my foodie radar for some 6 years now. First I marvelled at their Broadway market stall, adorned with rose petals, gorgeous platters and steaming stews of Persian delights and have been ‘stalking’ them on Instagram ever since. Back in the day when I was till in my academic / film festival admin world, I toyed with the idea of working in food, and seeing a job advert on their stall I sighed ‘Oh, if only I had the courage to actually do what I really love’, but I did not back then.
But 4 years ago when the KinoVino journey started to take a more defined course, I finally had a reason to contact the two lovely women to suggest a kino-foodie collaboration. And this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship (if I may use the over quoted phrase from Casablanca). While our plan of a joint KinoVino took four years (!) to come to fruition, I’ve had the joy of finally realising my dream and working in Zardosht kitchen, expanding my culinary horizons. As well as learning so many new dishes, I got inspiration on how to brighten up familiar things with the use of right herbs and spices (and a few decent cuts and burns along the way).
Being a huge admirer of talented young women who are not just outstanding cooks but also know how to turn their passion and talent into a proper business, I could not pass the chance to ask Soli and Sanaz a few questions about their heritage, their love of food and how the idea of the Zardosht brand came about.
What is your earliest memory of food
Sanaz: My earliest memory of food is from the days when my Mum, my sister Soli and I used to travel from Dubai to Shiraz during the summer holidays to visit my grandmother. I loved the afternoon walks we had together to the food market. It’s been years since I have visited Iran but I still recall the smell of the vegetables, fruits, flowers, spices and Persian pastries. We would always gather together in my Nan’s garden with aunts and cousins and it was the best! I miss those days!
Soli: Getting sick at the dinner table because I’d had a whole large uncooked green pepper- I was about 2 and I remember really LOVING them.
Who is your culinary hero
Sanaz: My sister, Soli – and our Mum!
Soli: My mother and the only Persian food writer I know from her generation called Roza Montazami- Her cookbook is a bible in almost every Persian household- Many of her original recipes contained wine which were edited in the later editions published post Iranian revolution. My sister Setareh sent me this book when I was 17 and I still refer to it all the time. I’m a bit tired of the celebrity chef culture but I do love Jamie Oliver – for me, he is above all that and has done such a great job of making cooking look both easy and accessible to everyone..When I first moved to the UK, I had a notebook ready so I could frantically write down his recipes every time he was on tv. I also adore Nigel Slaters writing.
What inspired you to start a food business
What is your go-to-dish
Sanaz: I love making fish! Any type of fish, though I often make trout, olives, tomato and avocado!
Soli: A Persian stew made with chicken, sour grapes, tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes served with Persian saffron rice.
For you what is the most important thing about feeding people
Sanaz: Spending time cooking and eating with friends is what I enjoy the most. I’m most happy when my private clients that I cook for on a weekly basis write to me about how much they like the flavours!
Soli: Making that meal the highlight of their day. When I have people over for dinner, I go out of my way to create just the right atmosphere to complement and enhance the dinner- the lighting, how the rooms smell, fresh flowers, the right platters, napkins…I take dinner parties very seriously.
What was your biggest kitchen disaster
Sanaz: Ahaha, It’s hard to recall a disaster – although we did once spill all our just-made gazpacho on the floor, just before service! There are probably a few other episodes that the team members might tell you about – perhaps you should ask them!
Soli: On more than one occasion, at the end of a very long day preparing food for the market, I somehow managed to drop the plate containing the orange-blossom mascarpone filled dates. Preparing them each week is a real labour of love so there would often be a tear or two after the initial shock.
How do you judge the success of your dishes
Sanaz: The compliments we receive from new customers and regulars on the flavours of our dishes. When our loyal/regular customers come back every week to Broadway Market to have our food it makes me very happy to see and hear their appreciation.
Soli: People always compliment the colours and the plating of our dishes but after this what I really like witnessing is how after the first mouthful, they often stop for a second in appreciation of the many layers of flavours. Whenever I’m at OTO I try to find the time to spy on our customers a little and gage their reaction to be sure we are still doing it right. We also get a lot of direct feedback from our customers, both at cafe OTO and at our stand on Broadway market which is really nice.
What are the key 3 ingredients that define Zardosht cooking style
Sanaz: The spices, use of saffron and herbs.
Soli: Zardosht is about cooking Persian dishes with a modern and fresh approach. Our priority is to cook and serve food that is wholesome yet complex in terms of flavours, non pretentious , plentiful and a feast for the eyes.
What’s it like to work with your sister
Sanaz: I love it! We inspire each other. I love every single thing she has made. She’s the best cook! I miss her food – she moved to New York a few years ago and I miss dropping by her place, spending time and having dinner with her.
Soli: It’s really rewarding, we have the exact same palette and our shared childhood food experiences make communicating much easier than if I were to say explain the idea of a new dish to anyone else and vice versa.
What would you advise people who are aspiring to start a food business
Sanaz: Go for it! It can be hard work, but take the risk and also be open to new ideas from your team members – and be open to change!
Soli: Make sure you LOVE cooking.
Book your tickets for a much-awaited KinoVino collaboration on 16th May!