Have you ever wondered why there is such a lack of Persian Chefs in the culinary world?
So we searched and researched–sniffing around the global kitchen–and found our first five-star/diamond (in our opinion at least) Persian Chef in the US: Maziar Farivar, of Georgetown’s Prospect St.-treasure, Peacock Cafe.
Dubbed, “Peacock” for short by regulars, the atmosphere inside his restaurant feels warm and hospitable–like most Persian homes–but not intrusively so.
“When people walk through our doors, they become our guests.” Says the James Beard Foundation-acknowledged Farivar.
Being recognized by the prestigious James Beard Foundation, a non-profit and center of America’s culinary community–whose mission is to “celebrate, nurture, and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future,”–is the ultimate honor to receive for American Chefs, yet Farivar, the man behind the DC-hot-spot has already been there twice; once as a member of the DC All-Stars Chefs team, and more recently as the featured Chef for the organization’s “Norouz: Persian New Year” event, where Farivar served a Norouz dinner to 75 guests/culinary industry elite.
Part of Chef Farivar’s James Beard House Norouz dinner menu read:
Zereshkpolo ba Belderchin; Pomegranate-Glazed Quail with Persian Barberry Rice
Tahchin va Qeymeh; Braised Lamb and Dried Lime with Saffron Rice Timbale
Yakh dar Behesht; Gilas-o Khormalou…Cardamom-Rose Water Custard; Sour Cherry-Persimmon Tart
“It was the most cherished accomplishment of my culinary career. It’s a very exclusive stage for any culinary person to get invited to. It’s very special. James Beard’s house has been transformed into gathering place for culinary professionals.” Farivar tells us of his feelings about being amongst the best of his peers.
“I’d been to the James Beard House as part of a DC Chefs team before, but when you are the featured chef, the focus is on you.”
Reaching its 19th anniversary in business beginning on June 3, 1991–12 years in the current space–with sales equaling $90 that first day, Peacock’s use of locally-grown organic ingredients and freshly-squeezed juices isn’t just kid-friendly…”It’s everyday-friendly.” Explains Farivar.
Peacock’s menu offers mostly light and “eclectic contemporary fare”–but if you are familiar with the DC social scene (a cluster of cliques not easily wowed), then you already know that “Peacock Brunches” are as synonymous to weekends in Georgetown, as shopping! Although should you be lucky enough to be running around Georgetown during the week, you should still stop by the Farivars’ gem of a restaurant: You may even run into Chef Farivar himself. And if not, then chances are you’ll get to meet the Chef’s brother and partner in business, Shahab Farivar.
“Shahab is the friendly-face of Peacock,” Maziar told us during our one-on-one meal full of scrumptious food tastings and wine-testing. (Pun intended.)
“They taste my food, but they recognize Shahab. I’m sure for the better.” The humble Chef jokes.
The drinks aren’t so bad either!
“Our Bloody Mary mix is very popular and it’s made with fresh lemon and celery juices. It’s a Peacock original mix that’s been around for years.” Says Farivar of just one of the many thirst-quenching drinks offered at his sexy and inviting bar–located strategically in the center of the restaurant–which is also equipped with a fantastic juice bar and craving-inducing smoothies. (My husband often creates an excuse for a Peacock-smoothie-drive-by-pick-up.)
“Due to my training, experience, and overall nature, I wanted to do contemporary food while providing variety.” Says the successful Chef. And just like its diverse fare, so is the Peacock crowd: “The morning patrons are different from the lunch, and the lunchers are different from the afternoon visitors…lots of variety.”
Not just a “daytime-hangout” for the perfectly-dressed, Peacock is also ideal for afternoon and evening outings…Making it an all-day-long pleasure: “At night, the lights are dim, and the ambience turns romantic.” Adds Maziar who rides motorcycles in his spare time and is a fan of Persian literature.
“We like to offer a consistently good product, and that extends to the energy, music, and service at Peacock. The room just feels good.”
Indeed it does.
Once a competitive swimmer who played for college soccer leagues and spent lots of time in some of the busiest kitchens in the US “learning from the best,” Farivar stays involved: Whether it’s fundraising via his restaurant walls, which double as enjoyable art space for Peacock’s loyal clientele–rather, “guests” as the Chef prefers to say–or sponsoring a rehabilitation effort for men living in halfway homes…Farivar is easily of the more generous and philanthropic of DC Chefs.
“We planned the art exhibitions from the beginning, but we’re not involved in the money part. Recently we had photographer Walter Grio, looking to introduce his work to the local DC art scene, and we had an opening party for him where he would take ten photos, in ten minutes, for ten dollars to benefit the Children’s Law Center. Our guests loved it. It’s part of the Peacock experience.” He says of the partial gallery he’s created for his dining room.
Noting his parents’ work ethic(s) as being very influential to him and his life growing up with his five siblings in Rezaiyeh, Iran, Chef Farivar is fluent in the Persian and Azeri languages and names “Tahcheen” as his favorite Persian dish. Farivar, whose father is a doctor, first obtained Pre-med student status before his passion fell upon him….“It just wasn’t in the cards for me.” He says. (We couldn’t be more thankful. We love the idea of having Iranians reign–as only they can–over every industry…Including the culinary world–not just the legal and medical fields.) Like a good Persian son, Farivar does mention his Mamaan (Colloquial Persian: Mom) too, as being the most “amazing cook”; even serving one of her dishes on the Peacock menu.
“The meatloaf is our mother’s recipe and it’s been around from the beginning–it’s actually her koufteh (Persian: meatball) recipe, but it shows up on the menu as meatloaf.”
His most coveted ingredient to cook with?
“Salt. I love flavored salt. No kitchen can operate without salt. You must respect the salt because the right amount is like magic: Too much can mean disaster. I flavor my salt with lavender, rose, limoo-ammani, and use finishing salt or sea salt varieties.”
Seemingly a great place to work, as the close-knit staff’s interaction with one another and patrons alike shows, long-time Peacock employee El Houssaine, raves: “I love it here. Right now I love the World Cup Small Plate Special: Bobuti [a South African dish, added to the menu for a limited time in honor of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa] and I love the Pistachio soup. I can even eat it cold.”
Personally, we can’t help but love almost every single item on the Peacock menu, but even we’ve got our favorites: The Med Salad is without a doubt a major addition to any meal (even the liquid ones); the dressing is just too good to not order…And the tomato bisque soup…Well, we can’t think of words worthy enough for how utterly delicious this bowl of comfort and pure-delight is. You’ll just have to experience it on your own.
Losing a battle to contain oneself while hoping to gain more access to the food we’d sell our brand new La Dona for, we had to ask the personable and kind Chef whether he’s set to bottle and sell his incredibly tasty creations for everyone’s enjoyment.
“It’s the next step.” The master flavor-bender replies with a warm smile.
The charming Farivar, whom you might catch on-camera via his appearances on TV, is not one to share his recipes outright. (Trust us, we tried.) Although he does give out ample “guidelines”…You’ll just have to wait for his cookbook release to get a peek at Farivar’s coveted recipes, which he does plan on writing but only “when the right publisher comes along.”
“Persian food so universally appealing that I wouldn’t be surprised if our Nazkhatoon (aka Kashk-eh Baademjoon) becomes as mainstream as Babaghanoush is now.” He says.
Perhaps Chef Farivar will have a hand in this Persian feast to be, and start teaching the world about Persian cuisine using the media’s most effective platform…Now only if network producers looking to be originators of a hit show, would smarten up and recruit DC’s real top chef and insert the exceedingly telegenic Chef Maziar Farivar in their prime-time lineup.
Next time you’re in Washington, DC and want to get a taste of DC’s multi-cultural, jet-setting/trend-setting, and powerful sophisticates–regardless of their political affiliation(s)–make sure to stop by the understatedly elegant haunt and “pamper yourself Peacock style.”