Azmin Ghahreman

Sapphire Laguna chef takes his work home, and makes it a family affair

As chef-owner of Sapphire Laguna, Azmin Ghahreman applies the same techniques and fresh-food standards in his San Juan Capistrano home kitchen as he does in his restaurant: “I won’t cut corners. I take ingredients seriously at home, too.” It’s a dining philosophy that he and wife Laura instill in their children—from left above, Rori, 7, Roan, 4, and Liam, 8—and one he takes to elementary schools. He teaches cooking and gardening classes at schools such as St. Anne’s in Laguna Niguel. “They prepare students for a lifetime of healthful eating,” Ghahreman says. “We have to teach our kids about the Earth. Once you teach them how to garden and cook, they can never go hungry.”

Ghahreman and his kids tend their raised garden beds, often harvesting sugar snap peas, blackberries, radishes, and corn. “We have plum trees, and the kids will wait for the fruit to ripen. They’ll take turns picking and eating it right off the trees.”

“Cooking with offal—tongue, and kidneys, liver, heart—is fun, but the family will run away when I do.
At home we have a rule: You have to have a taste. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, but you have to taste it first.”

“We grow all kinds of chilies, too, because I just love them. I once got a chili plant as a gift from a produce guy. Very spicy. My neighbor took one bite and immediately needed a glass of water.”

When pressed for time at home, Ghahreman turns to frozen garlic cubes. “I purée garlic with olive oil and spoon it into ice cube trays. Once they’re frozen, you pop them out and store them in a bag in the freezer.”

“We have old-fashioned spoons that were given to my wife by her parents, and glass milk bottles we brought back from Connecticut, where she’s from. They bring back memories of that farm era.”

Ghahreman is a self-described “cookbook junkie,” with a library of more than 1,400 volumes. “I’ve collected them since 1983. My oldest is from 1850; my cheapest was 49 cents. There’s nothing like putting your head in a book.”

Sapphire Laguna
1200 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach

Photographs by Ethan Pines

This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue.

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