As her latest book hits the shelves, Earl’s Court local Sabrina Ghayour reflects on the changing shape of the food industry
As her third bestselling book of Persian recipes, Feasts, becomes one of the must-buy gifts for Christmas 2017, one could forgive Earl’s Court resident and chef extraordinaire Sabrina Ghayour for being content to rest on her laurels. Yet this is far from the case.
Reflecting on the success that she found with her much-heralded first book, 2014’s Persiana, she points out that ‘you never think you are going to write a book, as an unknown, that people deem as a classic’. Her whole career as a writer was entirely unintentional.
After having worked in the industry for 16 years, she lost her job in 2011, and began cooking then – ‘it was the only thing that I knew how to do’. The rest, as they say, is indeed history.
Ghayour does not come from a background of chefs or restaurateurs, unlike many of her peers. ‘In fact, my mother and grandmother didn’t cook at all, so I don’t have any lovely story about learning to cook from my family.’
However, she’s prepared to see the positive side of it. ‘Their lack of cooking is what made me who I am today… my mother’s love of food really drove me to experiment and enjoy cooking in the kitchen.’
She has faced inevitable challenges in her career as a Persian chef, simply because most people don’t know what she is doing in terms of her cuisine. Yet, as she says: ‘I think most people are just nervous of that which they don’t know, regardless of whether it’s food or cooking. We are all just human and get a little edgy when we aren’t sure about something.
It’s important to show people that home cooking principles remain the same no matter the culture. Pies, stews and meatballs, breads, roasts and pickles. We all have them, we just call them different things. When you explain that to people, there is always a sigh of relief.
‘Since Persiana was released in 2014, I have seen our supermarket shelves transform completely,’ she continues. ‘There is pretty much nothing in my books that are not available in supermarkets. Even non Middle Eastern chefs are using Persian and Middle Eastern ingredients. Persian and Middle Eastern food is no longer “a trend”, it’s now a British staple.’
Will she ever become a restaurateur? ‘God no! I’m too tired, too old, and value freedom and variety in my work life to ever want to be tied down to just one business.’ So what’s next? ‘My cookery class has just begun and then I’m working up to Christmas.’ A remarkable woman, doing a remarkable job.