SFoodie: What is your first Bay Area food memory?
Zaré: Cooking here at the Fly Trap in 1992. When I started here, I was good at what I was doing and I was smart to learn, but I was nervous and I was just following the chef step by step. What he was doing, I was copying. But then, the chef and owner of the restaurant, they made me to be my own, to start to realize that I could create the dish, I could add to or evolve a recipe. I knew how to cook when I came here, but to get to the next level, [they gave me] freedom and tools and support. So that's one of my big goals as a chef in my career, to give what I got to other chefs under me. And now I'm still in this space that has so many memories, and I'm making new memories.
Can you name a chef with a different cooking style who inspires you? Right now, the most fascinating person in the world for me is [Masaharu] Morimoto. The guy is genius and I love his work and how humble he is. Most important [quality] besides cooking for chefs is humble attitudes, and Morimoto, I just adore him.
What are your favorite restaurants to eat at on a night off? Locally, if you would have asked me this question six months or a year ago, it would be a different chef. But to be honest with you, if you ask me at this moment what's my favorite restaurant, what's my favorite chef, what's my favorite food? Right now, it's SPQR. I've been three or four times in the past few months and I am craving to go back. And that is a huge statement. But the new chef [Matthew Accarrino] is my favorite right now. He's humble and his food is amazing. It speaks for itself. He's fresh and unique and it's a joy to watch what he's doing. In the last few months, my car has been driving itself to SPQR.
That's really the future though, right? You'll program your favorite restaurants into your car's navigation system, and it'll just automatically whisk you there. Except my car is on old-fashioned autopilot, and it still drives itself to SPQR!
Tomorrow: Part two of our interview, including the city where he's thinking of opening up a second restaurant and how he permanently cured himself of all guilty food pleasures.
Thursday: Hoss Zaré's recipe for kuku, a traditional Persian New Year's dish.