Cooking with “the internet boyfriend of our dreams”

If you’ve ever watched the American food magazine Bon appetit‘s YouTube channelwho at its peak in spring 2020 brought in 250,000 new subscribers a month, you know Andy Baraghani. Bon appetit‘S former senior food editor was one of its biggest stars. Iranian American. Bela. Gay. Known for his well-formed arms and recipes that even novice chefs might be excited about. When a profile magazine ran in February 2020 under the title “How Andy Baraghani Became the Internet Boyfriend of Our Dreams”, it felt appropriate.

The Cook You Want To Be by Andy Baraghani (Ebury, £ 26)

The Cook You Want To Be by Andy Baraghani (Ebury, £ 26)

This May sees the release of his debut cookbook The Chef You Want To Be. In addition to brilliantly attractive recipes like fennel buried in cream (his gratin), sticky-sweet roast chicken and chickpea cheese and peppers with caramelized lemon, it’s also full of personal color, taking us from the kid who wanted to be next. To Pacino to the adult who occasionally puts on black lipstick and performs Alanis Morissette in a ground pull, eats shrimp in their entirety (shell and all), and goes gaga over Zyliss salad spinach. We also learn that his culinary idol, Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, where he was interned as a teenager, once made him cry. It was the end of lunch service. Waters asked for something in French. “Domaine Tempier,” Baraghani recalls. “Bottle of rose.” At the time, he had no idea what she was saying and ended up in tears. “I was very young.”

The whole grilled lute of Baraghani

Baraghani’s whole grilled Lutjan

Andy Baraghani buys ingredients at Kalustyan's, New York

Andy Baraghani buys ingredients at Kalustyan’s, New York © Graydon Herriot

After Chez Panisse, Baraghani studied food studies and cultural anthropology at NYU, worked at Corton and Frej’s New York restaurants, and worked as a food editor at Flavor magazine before joining Bon appetit in 2015 at the age of 25, its youngest editor-in-chief. He prospered and when Bon appetit expanded its video content in 2016, Baraghani began performing on his YouTube channel along with contributors including Claire Saffitz, Brad Leone, Molly Baz, Sohla El-Waylly and Priya Krishna. They’ve all become famous names and it’s not hard to see why. In its evocation of “a fun, crazy workshop full of interesting and diverse characters”, San Francisco Chronicle food critic Sun Ho compared the channel to “The Officebut tastier! ”

And then it all came together. In May 2020, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Bon appetit posted on social media about plans to address “racial and political issues” in the food world, prompting an online debate on Bon appetitthe very bad record of presenting non-white contributors and non-Western stories. An even more heated discussion ensued about racist behavior, inadequate representation and unfair pay for non-white employees at Bon appetit. The public issuance of complaints “took a life of its own,” says Baraghani, who was accused of micro-assaults against another employee, characterized on Twitter as a “white pass,” and later acknowledged his privilege over BIPOC colleagues. “It was an incredibly painful time for all of us,” he tells me. “A lot of changes needed to happen. But the aftermath was so annoying inside because the people in the video weren’t there [those making] much of the operation [decisions]. We expected to have perfectly eloquent answers to these really difficult things. People also started digging [us] against each other. It made me realize that there is such a lack of nuance on social media and these things don’t translate well. “

Baraghani crushing hazelnuts

Baraghani crushing hazelnuts © Graydon Herriot

Baraghani stayed at Bon appetit for another year, leaving in August 2021 to work on his new book. “You were expected to resign to show solidarity,” he explains of his decision not to resign in protest along with many of his colleagues. “But I come from a very middle-class family. My father is a used car salesman, my mother a beautician. I have a five-figure college debt to pay. Giving up was a privilege I didn’t feel I had. “

The Chef You Want To Be feels like a fresh start. It’s filled with Baraghani’s charm and sense of humor (“I made myself,” he says of the tone) and captures all that is captivating about his way of cooking. It goes great on vegetables, salads and eggs with recipes that require a minimum of no preparation. (The caramelized cabbage smothered in anchovies and dill and black pepper and ginger asparagus sauté is above my list.) Instead of emitting innumerable shortcuts, the book also encourages a basic understanding of technique. One section is dedicated to dressings and sauces. Another to great, delicious soups that don’t depend on stock. Where there are challenges like recipes for whole grilled lute or chelo ba tahdig (Persian steamed rice), you feel like you’re in good hands. “I want to allow the home cook to take that extra step,” he says, “to try that ingredient or technique. And I want it to feel like I’m right there with you, cooking together.” As a good personal trainer, having Andy’s voice in your ear really helps.

Crumbled caramelized cabbage smothered in anchovies and dill

Crumbled caramelized cabbage smothered in anchovies and dill
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 ° C. Halve the cabbage through the core. Cut each half into three wedges, keeping the core intact.

  2. Place a large cast iron or stainless steel pan over medium heat. Add a cup of olive oil and heat until hot and shiny. Season the cabbage with salt and place in the pan. Cook, using tongs to squeeze the cabbage, so it becomes deeply charred and slightly tender (it will soften more in the oven), for three to five minutes on each side. If your pan is not large enough to brown all the pieces at once, make it in batches.

  3. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully cover it with aluminum foil (the pan will be hot!). Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the cabbage is very soft, 30 to 40 minutes. When it’s ready, a knife should slide in and out of the cabbage core like butter.

  4. While the cabbage is in the oven, in a medium bowl, mix the anchovies, garlic, dill, walnuts, lemon zest, lemon juice and remaining ½ cup of olive oil. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. If you let it sit for 10 minutes, the flavors will soften and melt.

  5. When the cabbage is done, arrange the pieces on a plate and spoon the sauce around and between the melted layers. Sprinkle with more pepper and serve.

@ ajesh34

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