Nicola (Nic) Sayada

Jo McGarry
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Friday - January 18, 2012 Share | | podcast Podcast |

Jo McGarry photo

Title: Executive Chef, Il Lupino

Where were you born and raised? I am Assyrian. My grandmother escaped during the revolution to Central Iran, and we migrated to San Francisco in 1964. I still consider myself Assyrian there are not many of us left in the world.

You’ve had a lifelong, passionate relationship with food. What started it? When I was a little kid we had a hotel in Iran. My mother would take me everywhere and teach me everything. She would bake and cook and show me how to look at vegetables to see if they were fresh ...

First food memories? Buying lamb from the butchers with my mother to make stew ... stuffing grape leaves ... roasted eggplant drizzled with olive oil and eaten before dinner ...

First culinary job? A friend and I started the North Beach Hof Brau on Broadway in San Francisco in 1967. I served hand-carved sandwiches of pastrami and corned beef along with daily specials.

You’ve worked in many different styles of restaurants (Balboa Café, San Fran, Nick’s Fishmarket, The Black Orchid, Cascada ...) and now Il Lupino. Does the style of your food change? Yes, of course, in one way, but always I have found an opportunity to stick to my roots and to bring the dishes I know best into the menu. At Il Lupino during Christmas, we served a roast duck with pomegranate and orange peel rice flavored with saffron, sun-dried cranberries, pistachios. The roasted duck breast was served on top. Even on an Italian menu there is room for food from my heritage!

What’s always in your fridge? Yogurt, bread, a nice piece of cheese and Perrier water. And yogurt soup it’s wonderful with good bread.

Favorite Honolulu restaurant? Olive Tree at Kahala. The food is excellent, the consistency is always there. My wife and I go, take a bottle of wine and enjoy it very, very much.

What should we order at Il Lupino next time we come? (laughs) Well, that’s tough because so many things are so good. But the owner, Wolfgang Zweiner, and his son Peter and I agree that our pasta served with a spicy pomodoro sauce and Parmesan and Romano cheese is the best.

Anything about you that might surprise us? I was in love with the idea of becoming a pilot. Years ago I worked with and became friends with Admiral Blair. He gave me his (four star) flying suit. I wear it sometimes, just for fun, in the restaurant (laughs). Last time Sen. Inouye came in for dinner I wore it and he stood up and saluted me!

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