Former 'Bon Appétit' editor, cookbook author Andy Baraghani says preserving jams and pickles with his Iranian family 'instilled integrity' in his work

·5 min read
Andy Baraghani's advice to aspiring cooks?
Andy Baraghani's advice to aspiring cooks? "Surround yourself with people who inspire you." (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.

Writer and recipe developer, Andy Baraghani has a one-of-a-kind career where food remains at the forefront. Working everywhere from acclaimed restaurant kitchens to test kitchens, this foodie made the jump from cooking on the line to food media, spending six years at Bon Appétit as both senior editor and host of the magazine's viral video series Andy Explores. But in every new chapter, Baraghani maintains his passion for exploring exciting flavors and doing things the right way.

"There was a joke a while back, my colleague always used to say, 'Andy wants to do it the right way, even if it's the hard way,'" he tells Yahoo Life. "I think the thing is … it's just about cooking thoughtfully. I think the beauty of cooking is being able to interact with ingredients and see how they transform."

"I try to make sure I'm writing [my recipes] in a way that feels like we're in the kitchen," he adds, "so it doesn't feel like a template or so robotic."

Growing up in an Iranian family in California, Baraghani was surrounded by people who worked together to bring flavorful, traditional and often time-consuming dishes to the table by making sure each piece of the recipe was executed with the utmost care.

"I remember, specifically in the spring, fava beans and shelling beans — just watching my grandfather shell all the beans," Baraghani reminisces. "[In the] late summer and early fall we would do these big batches of preserves: whether it was savory pickles, garlic pickles, eggplant pickles or sweet preserves like persimmon jam or quince jam or sour cherry jam … watching my family, my immediate family, my extended family do these tasks for a bigger accomplishment definitely instilled this integrity in my work."

The 32-year-old journalist says growing up he felt thankful his family had so many traditions around food, from their nightly dinners — always homemade and spent together — to their cultural celebrations for holidays like the Persian New Year.

While he cherishes the flavors he grew to know at home, it was his first restaurant job that he found truly transcendent.

"Something very transformative was working as a teenager at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif.," he says. "This is a restaurant that is an institution, that's been around for four decades — seeing the way these incredible gem-like ingredients came to the restaurant and then to see the cooks transform them — it was an edible education."

Baraghani says watching his family cook and working in restaurants as a teen were both transformative moments in his life that shaped his love of food. (Photo: Andy Baraghani)
Baraghani says watching his family cook and working in restaurants as a teen were both transformative moments in his life that shaped his love of food. (Photo: Andy Baraghani)

Baraghani says this experience as a teenager expanded his mind on what food could taste like. "The love I have for food was instilled by my family, but the kind of education I gained was very much brought on by this restaurant," he says. "Every day we would taste the dishes that were on the menu and I felt like every day I was tasting something that blew my mind.”

Now a recipe writer, Baraghani says his current cravings include foods that help him feel his best.

"I'm always craving vegetables and seafood — those are the things I could eat every single day," he says. "I'm focused on putting things in my body that make me feel good and also give me the energy to kind of keep going."

Baraghani spoke to Yahoo Life as part of his promotional work for his latest project, combining his myriad of experiences to bring a cookbook to life. He says The Cook You Want to Be was many years in the making, as he wanted to make sure he felt fully prepared to bring a book to life.

The Cook You Want to Be, Baraghani's debut cookbook, is available now. (Photo: Penguin Random House)
The Cook You Want to Be, Baraghani's debut cookbook, is available May 24. (Photo: Penguin Random House)

"It's been a work in progress for three years now … through my life, I've learned these lessons that have made me a better cook and a better human being and I wanted to apply those lessons in my book to the reader," he says.

"Obviously, I want [readers] to fall in love with these recipes and have them become part of their repertoire," he says, "but I want them to go a step further and learn about a recipe or a technique and apply that to their own lives in the kitchen so they can discover the cook they want to be."

"This book is for beginners in the kitchen and for people who are professionals and experts," he adds, "but really, it's for anyone who is curious about cooking because you will learn at least one thing if you read it."

Baraghani's unique journey with food and media has been shaped by those who have helped him to become the cook he wanted to be, and he has advice for others looking to do the same.

"Surround yourself with people who inspire you and know that not every day will you be inspired, it's just silly to think that, but absorb as much information as you can and stay curious."

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