Meet Andy Baraghani, Senior Food Editor for Bon Appetit and Healthyish. If you follow @bonappetitmag, you’ve probably made one of his delicious and innovative recipes. Learn more about Andy’s culinary influences and journey to professional recipe development below.
Where did your love of food come from?
I grew up in the Bay Area as a first generation American. My parents are from Iran and 90% of our meals were always cooked at home with no shortcuts. My mother is an excellent cook and dad is an ok cook – they have different talents. Mom’s side knows stews, rice dishes, and vegetables and salads that make Iranian food so unique, and my dad’s side is great at ferments. Persian food definitely influenced the way I cook now – the flavors I use and the ingredients I’m attracted to.
Persian food is a very unique cuisine that not a lot of people are familiar with – it’s very specific. It’s not a heavily spiced cuisine, it’s more delicate and heavy on herbs. Spices are actually quite minimal and actually are there to scent the food.
What was your journey to recipe development?
It’s interesting how many people come to me for advice – it wasn’t my career path. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love eating and wasn’t fascinated by cooking – I had a Fisher Price kitchen when I was 5 years old. I didn’t know I was ever going to go into it professionally. As I teenager I got a taste of it and started working in restaurants. There’s a camaraderie and a lot of respect in restaurants – it’s a very heated environment but I was very young and enjoyed my time there. I worked in restaurants from age 16 to 20 and just wanted to learn and absorb everything I could.
What was your path to working at Bon Appetit?
It wasn’t a typical one. Some of us went to culinary school, some worked in other editorial test kitchens – I came from a restaurant and went to NYU with a stint in fashion. Saveur was the first food magazine that allowed me to work for them – as much as people think it’s about hard work and talent, it’s just as much about the people who were willing to hire me and listen to my story. There was a job opening at BA and a friend suggested that I apply. I feel very privileged and humbled to be at Bon Appetit and for everything that came my way prior to this.
What do you do at BA – what’s a typical day?
I’m still in the test kitchen – i still develop a lot of recipes, that’s my bread and butter. I write for the magazine and do videos. I’m wearing more hats these days.
What flavors inspire you? How do you bring flavors from your childhood into your recipe development?
I will say that I’m not trying to cook my mother’s food or the dishes you see in Iran, and I’m not trying to cook in the exact technical way from my time in restaurants. At the end of the day I try to develop a recipe that people are actually going to be making – that’s my number one goal. You can create the most beautiful dish, but if people don’t make it at home you’ve kind of failed at your job. Drawing inspiration from my childhood flavors is about striking the right balance – what ingredients and flavor pairings can be incorporated into the recipes that people are using in the US?
How do you balance eating in a way that makes you feel great with spending your days in a test kitchen that’s making all kinds of food everyday?
I almost approach my eating in reverse. I don’t eat and then see how I feel, but rather see how I’m feeling, what my body is craving, what I’m craving and I let that help me guide what I eat. It’s not so much that I eat this and not that. I’ve noticed I tend to feel better when I consume less dairy and sugar and am able to move better and stay focused. There are days however, when I just want something sweet and I listen to my body and go for it.
I try to practice some willpower and integrity when finding that balance of eating in a way that makes me feel great while also developing recipes and working in the test kitchen. Being surrounded by food constantly doesn’t necessary make me crave all that food all the time. I think I’ve also gone back to cooking a lot more at home this past year instead of opting for dining out. That certainly has made a difference in the way I feel.