Chef’s Corner with Azmin Ghahreman of Sapphire Laguna
Chef Azmin Ghahreman is a citizen of the world. Born in Iran, educated in Switzerland, having lived and worked all over the world. In 2007 in Laguna Beach, California, Chef Azmin opened his first restaurant and lounge, Sapphire Laguna, with its adjunct gourmet specialty shop, Sapphire Pantry. From the very beginning, the restaurant and shop were embraced by the Laguna Beach community and beyond. Prior to opening Sapphire Laguna and Sapphire Pantry, Chef Azmin held executive chef positions at various five-diamond and five-star hotels throughout the world. And Chef Azmin has cooked for over 30 kings, presidents and heads of state. Add journeyPod to that list now!
What does journeyPod recommend? Definitely start off with the salt and pepper shrimp Hong Kong Style. The shrimp are spicy with just the right amout of “kick.” If seafood is your posion, continue on with the tiradito of kampachi with coconut-lime juice. This dish will melt in your mouth! And be sure to check out the large and impressive wine list, selected by Peter Neptune. Neptune is one of only 96 individuals in North America to hold the wine industry’s most prestigious title – Master Sommelier!
journeyPod enjoyed a tasting with Chef Azmin then sat down to have a one- on-one conversation.
What inspires your cooking?
I am inspired by street food vendors from around the world. Liver ka-bobs, roasted chestnuts, tacos…
What is the most unique food you’ve ever tasted?
Durian ice cream (read more about the durian fruit in our recent podcast from Singapore). I’ve also tasted “bahkuteh”–this is Malaysian pork intestines braised in black tea. And I must say that the cod sperm sack soaked in miso soup was unique.
Wow! Those are some pretty amazing and unusual foods. Is there anything you will NOT eat?
When you first enter a restaurant, what it is that you first notice?
I notice the smell. Also, I take note of how put together the restaurant is. I notice the flow… Is the hostess smiling? Is it clean? Cleanliness is huge for me. I take a quick glance at the food. And I listen for how noisy the kitchen is. If it’s quiet in the kitchen it means there is no stress in the restaurant. Notice how quiet my kitchen is…
Where do you dine locally?
At my house. But when I do go out, I enjoy BlueFin here in Laguna, and also Thai This in Dana Point, just down the highway.
Chef Azmin, why did you start cooking?
I started cooking at about age 15–out of love. I learned how to break down a lamb and what parts to prepare/eat first and which ones would last longer.
What advice would you offer a cooking enthusiast?
When you think something is done–stop cooking! Most people tend to overcook. Follow your heart and your senses. Taste and remember. Keep a sharp knife (a Japanese cookbook will help with this)
What trends in cooking do you notice?
Cheeses are really popular right now. Thin crust pizza, too. Flavorful but inexpensive spices are really big.