I met the effervescent lady chef Carrie Nahabedian- proud owner of Naha,a Michelin star restaurant in Chicago- at the Zomato masterclass held at Le Cirque. This event was organized by CSSG which tied up with Michelin star chefs to train underprivileged girls from India to help them start a career in the food industry.I caught up with her to know more about what drives her.
Coming from a family of 1st generation Armenian immigrants, Carrie’s father visualised all his children as college grads but Carrie joined the Ritz Carlton at the age of 17 instead of opting for higher education. She felt she was learning much more at the Ritz than she would ever be able to at school. Her dad conceded but not without offering to pay for her education whenever she desired, which of-course turned out to be the pivotal point of her life(That is what funded “Naha “) .On being asked about what motivates her, she answered immediately - love for cooking. The joy of customers leaving her restaurant with a smile on their faces and an experience to cherish, is what drives her. Like a lot of other chefs, she did not start out as one, and again like many other chefs who she says are generally very loving (and I second that), for her too it’s all about putting a smile on customer’s face.
Her two sisters went to college and ironically work with her now (it’d be such fun for me and my sisters to run our own company). Carrie swears she could not have done it without them and it’s because they take care of the management, the accounts and the over all functioning of the business that she’s free to focus on cooking and gets the opportunity for fuelling her creativity.
I expected a fancier answer when I quizzed her about Comfort food but her reply was a simple something soft- yoghurt /cereal or a well-cooked risotto.
As a blogger I could not refrain from raking up the topic of “food-blogging” and Carrie feels that the problem is that bloggers fall in the trap of perceiving themselves as critics. A food critic is one is qualified and experienced and has expertise in the field, who’s aware of the nuances of a certain cuisine and judges on the basis of that. Hence their inputs are very valuable. A blogger judges on the basis of his/her personal likes and dislikes and if influential then a negative review can cause unnecessary harm to any restaurant. Very few are sensible and some are just a nuisance.
So how did she react on winning the Michelin star? She was shocked by this pleasant surprise and to celebrate asked her team as to what they wished to do. They all chose to have a party at this Asian place which also serves good beer to celebrate the milestone.
All you people reading this post and staying in or visiting Chicago, don’t forget to check out Naha to savour some outstanding food and meet this convivial chef.