Shabnam Hashemi started her catering company Shabnam Saveurs in 2012, and has made success in the Parisian catering scene. She presents Persian delicacies such as Ghormeh sabzi, Tahchin and Fessenjoon, in perfect finger food-format delivered right to your doorstep all around Paris. To The Tehran Times she talks about her nostalgia for French culture as a child in Tehran, her life-long love for cooking and why she thinks finger foods is the perfect concept.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m born in Tehran, and I’ve lived in Paris for 14 years. During my childhood I studied at the French school of Jean d’Arc in Tehran. My love for French culture and the nostalgia stuck with me even when the school was closed down, which is why I chose to study French literature post-highschool. I got my masters at the University of Shahid Beheshti in Tehran and moved to Paris for my PHD. After that I’ve worked in several business fields, and in 2011 I quit my position as a product manager at a company to create my own business. I’ve always loved cooking for my friends, and I felt like I wanted to work with the skill I’m best at.
Have you always been interested in cooking and gastronomy?
Always! Ever since I was a child. I definitely consider myself to be a gourmet person.
Why finger foods?
I’m against eating in big quantities, as you do in the United States for example. I prefer to enjoy the real taste of food. I find finger foods very suitable to taste, and you can get the most variety of foods via this concept. And it’s a great way to get people to familiarize with the Iranian cuisine, especially French people who are known to be excellent at appreciating culinary art.
What are the steps you generally follow when transforming an Iranian dish into a finger food?
I try to present a dish in a small format or size, as well as bring forward its aesthetic value and the complexity of its ingredients. Generally for Europeans, the eye eats before the mouth does.
What is it that makes Iranian cuisine and the French concept of finger foods, known in French as canapés, go so well together?
French culinary culture is very diverse. French people are often very interested in discovering cuisines of other cultures. Iranian culture and cuisine is strong and diverse as well, and I think that the mix of two huge cultures like that is evident and unavoidable.
What’s your favourite dish you’ve created?
I love all of them. They’re like my own children. In every single one of them there’s a feeling. A story.
What have the reactions to your creations been so far?
They’ve been very good! For both Frenchs and Iranians, it’s truly an artistic experience.
Do you think people, especially in France and the West, have an idea about what Iranian cuisine is like? Or are they surprised when they experience it for the first time?
Mostly people are surprised because they have a preconception of it being spicy, like Indian or Lebanese cuisine. When they try it for the first time they they find it to be very aromatic and elaborate when it comes to the design and aesthetic of it.
What has inspired and driven you the most throughout your journey with Iranian gastronomy, especially as a culinary stylist?
I want to show the depth and diversity of human civilization through food. I feel like our culinary culture is sometimes underrated; it’s often much more rich than people imagine and I want to bring that aspect forward with my culinary art.
You can see more of Shahrzad Hashemi’s creations at www.shabnamsaveurs.com, where you can find her menu’s and order her foods to enjoy for yourself if you are in Paris.