Hoss Zaré, the Chef and Owner of Zaré at Fly Trap in San Francisco, dishes about his calling in the kitchen, positive aspects of the recession and the monotony of mixology.
Where do you go out? I love Kaygetsu Sushi in Menlo Park because the entire experience is immaculate. Slide is my favorite bar because it turns everyone into a kid in a playground, and I love the restaurant bar scene in San Francisco right now. I’ll hit Conduit, Beretta, Bix, or Aziza on any given night. When I moved to Napa, I just had a restaurant there, and I thought it was perfect. I love to cook, but I wanted to go out after a long day, and in Napa, after 8:30pm, everything shuts down, so when you want to go out, everything’s closed. So I’d drive to San Francisco, an hour each way. Always, on my day off, I’d make time to go to different restaurants there. You want to learn? Go out and eat another chef’s food. I recommend every chef who teaches me something.
What do you do? I’m a chef/owner of one of San Francisco’s best restaurants, Zaré at Fly Trap. I’m lucky enough to combine my personality with my passion and my profession, every day. Twenty or thirty years ago, the chef position wasn’t as prestigious as it is now, and I can remember when I came here from Iran 25 years ago, nobody knew the magician behind the curtain. Jim Hightower was the first chefs I’d ever heard of. Now, you follow the chef from venue to venue. Back in Persia, being a chef is another thing. It’s not a prestigious job, but as a cook, it’s a necessary one. Maybe it’s changing now. Then, it was a touchy subject. I was studying medicine when I found that my real calling was cooking.
Name two icons in your industry Joyce Goldstein, because she’s one of the pioneers in the San Francisco food world. She never lets her achievements get in the way of working hard. Roland Passot of La Folie is a constant big brother and friend to me. I’ve had the good fortune to know him for a long time. I had a five course Valentine’s menu in my restaurant, and he called me and said, “We’ve got to talk,” in that heavy French accent of his. He said, “What the hell are you doing? You give them two courses and they get the third course at home!” It was the biggest lesson I’ve learned. Make a New Years dinner last longer, but on Valentines Day they really want to go home.
What are positive trends you’ve noticed in the hospitality industry recently? I love watching the community feeling of restaurants grow. In the response to the economy more people are dining at communal tables and bars. The result is bringing everyone together and creating a home-away-from-home atmosphere at restaurants. Plus it’s easy to make reservations in places that were once too packed to get in.The economy is creating excellent price points and shorter lines.
Negative trends? I’m getting tired of the mixology trend. Let me be more specific: I’m getting tired of waiting 15 minutes for a $12 cocktail I’m supposed to make a big fuss about. I have my own mixology. The problem is that some restaurants are going too far. I went into a restaurant and it took 20 minutes to get a drink because they were making something exclusive for me. It’s not worth it to wait that long for a drink. I’m old fashioned, I want a light dirty martini. That’s my drink.