For 30 years, Hamishe Bahrami has been serving St. Louis her homemade Persian cuisine at Café Natasha (3200 South Grand Boulevard; 314-771-3411) -- a run that's virtually unheard of in the restaurant industry. When Bahrami and her husband Behshid started the restaurant (originally as a lunch counter named the Little Kitchen), Ronald Reagan was president, Michael Jackson was debuting the moonwalk and the last episode of M*A*S*H was airing on our not-nearly-HD television sets.
Bahrami recently handed the reins of the restaurant over to its namesake, her daughter Natasha, but judging from the fact that she still runs the kitchen six days a week, it's clear she is still the sheriff of Café Natasha's kitchen.
Bahrami took a break from making her famous beef shish kabob to chat about her rituals, penchant for cognac and her dreams of being a cowgirl.
What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? That if I had it my way, I would choose to live in the days of the wild wild west. I loved the simplicity of the times, the classic taverns and riding horseback into the sunset. Plus I would make an awesome sheriff!
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Having a cup of coffee and watching the news before heading to work.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Time travel. Spending moments with the people and places I've loved over the years.
What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? I've noticed an increase in the talent pool in St. Louis -- people coming back to the city and really putting their focus on presentation and distinguishing their food and cocktails; not just in St. Louis but on a nationwide scale.
Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? My daughter, Natasha Bahrami. She has such a passion for the industry and passes this enthusiasm on to all she meets. It's so exciting to watch all her projects flourish.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Cinnamon... spicy and sweet.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say? Exploding.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. Unnatural additives. If I could grow all my produce in my garden I would.
What is your after work hangout? My lounge chair, watching late night western movies and sipping cognac.
What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? A cold beer with salt and a juicy hamburger.
What would be your last meal on earth? Baked beans with bacon cooked over a campfire and drinking whiskey under the stars. After all that is the fantasy of America that brought me to this country.