Since making it to the final of MasterChef in 2012, Afsaneh Kaviani has spent time working in some of the UK's top kitchens to broaden her commercial kitchen experience. As well as launching her own supper clubs and pop-ups, she also recently co-hosted The Parsee and the Persian event alongside Cyrus Todiwala at Cafe Spice Namaste as part of his Khaadraas Club evenings. Piers Zangana caught up with her to talk about her drive to promote Persian food
What have you been up to since your appearance on MasterChef?
It has been fantastic. As an amateur chef, it was really important for me to learn about how commercial kitchens work, which is why I had stages at James Martin's the Leeds Kitchen before working at Bistrot Bruno Loubet, Atul Kochhar's Benares and Cyrus Todiwala's Café Spice Namasté. I've learned so much from some really inspirational people.
Tell us about this event you held recently with Cyrus Todiwala
I was delighted to find out about Cyrus's interest and knowledge of Persian cuisine when I did my stage with him. As a Parsee [Persians who fled Iran to go to India over 1,400 years ago to avoid persecution], Cyrus is very proud of his heritage and our shared history.
We talked a lot about food and wanted to celebrate the variations of food from Iran and those who fled to India, which is how we came up with the idea of ‘The Parsee and the Persian' event. We created a four-course menu and each course included the original Persian dish and the Parsee variation. It was great to see how a dish evolves as it travels across borders.
How important is it to you that people understand the cuisine?
I care a lot about our food and it is very important to me to keep the authenticity of our food. We see variations of the cuisine, but there is something quite special about doing things in the way it has been done for centuries.
What does a typical Persian dinner table look like?
During mehmoonis [dinner parties], we like to fill the table with lots of dishes with heavenly aromas. We will usually have rice with delicious stews, Persian flatbreads, various dips and starters and colourful salads.
Persian culture has quietly influenced so many others over the centuries. Do you think the cuisine has had the same impact?
It breaks my heart when I see how Persian food has influenced so many other countries' cuisines in the past and yet it is so unknown itself. On the other hand, I'm so happy to see many people like Cyrus being so supportive and helping people like me promote our food.
Definitely! I think visiting a country, meeting the people, trying the food and finding out about the ingredients will always help with awareness.
We are a hospitable nation and always proud to share our food and culture with others. Hopefully, in the near future, we will get the chance to show off our food to a wider audience.
What are your future plans?
For now, I'm just enjoying cooking and talking about Persian food. I want to carry on promoting it through supper clubs, cookery demos, food events, pop-ups and collaborations.
I also hope to do some more travelling around Iran's regions and provinces to find out about lesser-known regional dishes.
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