I met Amy Hedyatpour through mutual friend, Brad Preznant. After Brad steered me to her blog, I ended up a fan. Amy fascinated me with her battles in French cooking brigades, her farm-to-table dishes, her perfumed Persian kitchen’s pantry and finally her work as a mother, sharing stories of teaching her two daughter’s how to bake and cook. Recently I was able to get Amy to come answer some questions.
How did you become a chef?
Cooking has always pursued me and not the other way around. I mean it! Growing up I always wanted to be an actor. Out of college I performed in London and then had a string of rejections and needed a job quickly that would pay cash. An American ex-pat gave me a short order cook position at her cafe and thus began my cooking education. It was simple stuff, mostly Garde Manger fare and burgers. I loved the camaraderie, the prep, the rush of service and of course being able to eat all day long. When I finally came home to San Francisco I searched for a waitress position so I could pursue my acting career but I had no experience waiting tables and it was a competitive market (and it still is).
Once again I found myself cooking to support myself, this time for a restaurant called Ristorante Ecco. The Chef was female and it was a diverse kitchen. It never occured to me that cooking was a male dominated profession. After years of cooking professionally and teaching cooking to Middle School students as a credentialed teacher, I moved to Paris and formalized my education at Le Cordon Blue and then went on to cook for Guy Savoy and Eric Ripert, two French 3-michelin star chefs. And upwards and onwards to becoming an Opening Chef for several Bay Area restaurants, A Chef/Owner of a Farm-to-Table catering company and finally as an Exec. Chef for six Persian Inspired Mediterranean restaurants in the Bay Area.
But now, I’m ‘just’ a Mom — I’m Chef to two gorgeous girls. I have always loved directing and creating a collaborative vision while fostering and mentoring talented people. I am highly visual and love exploring texture and color through taste. And I’ve lived and worked all over the world and enjoy learning about culture through cuisine. Becoming a Chef was and is a natural extension of everything I love to do. Considering my first word was ‘hot dog’ and my second was ‘cake’, I guess it was fate all along!
Describe what makes the experience for women in professional kitchens?
I’m not sure how to answer this question because I grew up thinking cooking was a female dominated profession. While I was cutting my teeth in San Francisco, Nancy Oakes was leading Boulevard to greatness, Traci des Jardin was doing gorgeous food at Jardinière and Judy Rogers was crushing it at Zuni’s. I just thought it was normal for a woman to lead a brigade. It wasn’t until I started cooking in Paris at Guy Savoy and later at Le Bernardin in NYC that I came across harassment. At Guy Savoy I was the only female cook to work the prestigious Meat Station and it caused a lot of jealousy amongst the younger male cooks. Eventually I just became part of the team and was accepted. It was a learning curve for all of us but, I think a good one overall and I look back on that experience with great fondness and Chef Guy Savoy always was supportive of me. In France at that time cooking was mostly for men. I guess the rational being: why would any woman want to cook two services a day, 6 days a week? The profession has changed dramatically in the last fifteen years both in Europe and on home turf. Sadly, I think every and all women in the cooking industry can say they have experienced harassment. But with so many female Chefs stepping up, it’s changing.
How has your life changed since becoming a parent?
Being a Mom has changed everything. Everything. It’s the hardest most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I left my Exec. Chef position when I had my first daughter. Traveling between 6 restaurants, working endlessly, constantly filling in if a cook quit or didn’t show, creating holiday banquets for literally thousands across the chain. My priorities naturally shifted and I wanted my daughter Layla to come first, not a restaurant, and I wanted to focus on her needs. And then my second daughter came along (surprise! Surprise!). My days, my nights, my everything are centered around my girls for right now and I’m enjoying this time to focus on my family.
What do I love to cook most? I don’t have a favorite. I take my inspiration from the from the farmer’s market produce and then I choose my protein. I definitely get ‘into’ things, like right now I love sweet and crunchy shaved fennel in salads, I love edible flowers and I grow a plethora in my garden and I’m into discovering new (to me) heirloom fruit like pink fleshed apples.
Persian food, what is it and how do we learn more?
What is Persian food? Well, it’s food from Iran of course! Persian food is: saffron, sumac and pomegranates, bright green ‘sabzi’ herbs and crunchy whole cucumbers for munching on. It’s slow simmered sweet n’ sour stews and fluffy fragrant rice with crunchy tadig. It’s walnuts and feta. It’s smoky fire roasted meats and flatbread a football field long. It’s cinnamon and cardamom and rose water and date syrup and so much more.
Has cooking and or baking with your children changed there diet or yours?
Let’s be clear. When you bake with a child you are simply a vehicle to help them get as much sugar into their mouth as humanly possible! If there is not a spatula to lick or a bowl to run a finger through, then they are outta there. Yes, I love cooking and baking with my girls. Layla loves to make her own pasta and ravioli, she hounds me constantly to bake cakes, and she enjoys the fine motor skills involved in cracking eggs, shucking peas, peeling potatoes and more. Hettie Rose just likes watching for now. Layla is a super picky eater but she is more tempted to try food when she makes it. Hettie Rose literally eats and loves everything.
Do you think climate change has affected food, and farmers markets?
I’m not an expert on climate change but I did spend many years collaborating with farmers along the coast. It will be years before we truly understand how it is effecting Northern California, but I think most farmy folk around here feel that every year is so different from the next and that’s not a good thing
Is there a book in the oven?
I have written a book! But it’s not edited yet. Originally I titled it: No Place for a Lady. It’s a fast paced saucy memoir about my cooking adventures in Paris. Hopefully when Hettie Rose is a little older I’ll get it published. I’m also working on a quarterly online magazine called Michelin Mom which will feature a big Persian section for Nowruz, Persian New Years, coming in March.
Colors, like pink apples describe that?
Yes, pink is my favorite color, how did you know? Is it that obvious?? And I do have an affinity for pink fruit or anything oink for that matter. My dream is to one day own a Pink Pearl apple farm and make pink cidre sec, that’s what I want to do when I retire.
Describe your cuisine?
Right now I’d call my style: Persian inspired California cuisine with French flare. I love using Persian flavors in French and American classics whether it’s adding rose water to a classic French apple cake, whipping saffron & honey into butter to smear on pancakes and muffins, creating spice rubs of sundried lime with cumin and smoked paprika for fried chicken, tossing salads with loads of freshly torn sabzi herbs or slathering meatballs in pomegranate molasses for a sweet n’ sour BBQ sauce. I cook seasonally what I crave seasonally and what I source locally.
A la minute or buffet?
How do I decide? Well, if there’s a baby sitter then it’s a la minute. If there’s not, it’s buffet.
Describe Pommes d’Amour.
This was the original title of my blog 16 years ago when I began cooking in Paris. Pommes d’Amour is the famous French bright red candy apple dessert. But strictly translated it means ‘apples of love’ which I thought was a clever title for a cooking blog. I lost my domain name when I failed to renew it many years ago and replaced it with my name (amyglaze.com) However, my company is also called Pommes d’Amour which has morphed over the years from farm-to-table catering to after-school programs for youth in rural low-income areas along the coast and consulting and content creation for high end food brands and restaurants.
Is blogging still pertinent?
Well, yes and no. It’s impossible for me to stay consistent as a Mom of two small kids and write lengthy stories and I find social media easier to post quick inspiration. I also crave a better way to tell a food inspired story that reflects the season as a whole, instead of one-off recipes hence the online Michelin Mom online magazine.
What or who is your inspiration?
It’s you Jeremy! I enjoy your posts every day and all the incredible food you make and share with us online. I feel like I’m right back in the kitchen when I see your posts. And I would love your bread baking knowledge, that’s just something I don’t know how to do.