meez podcast

Nilou Motamed on Persian Culture and Cuisine

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About this episode

Join us for an engaging podcast episode featuring Nilou Motamed, a prominent figure in food journalism with over two decades of experience. Nilou's impressive career includes crafting her role as Features Director at Travel and Leisure and holding the prestigious position of Editor-in-Chief at Epicurious and Food & Wine Magazine. She's not just an editor; Nilou is also an Emmy-nominated TV personality and the former Director of Inspiration at Conrad Hotels. As if that wasn't enough, she's a co-founder of Story Collective, a brand and strategy consultancy firm.

Currently, you can catch Nilou Motamed as a permanent judge on Netflix's revival of Iron Chef. This conversation with Nilou was so captivating that we've decided to split it into two episodes.

In this inaugural episode with Nilou, we embark on a captivating journey through her remarkable life story. From her childhood escape from Tehran during the Iranian Revolution to her eventual emigration to Paris and later the United States.

Our conversation delves deeply into Persian cuisine and culture. We explore the intricate flavors of Tahdig, the art of crafting kebabs, and the sheer indulgence of savoring exquisite Iranian caviar. Nilou also loves breakfast. We talk about Iranian and Turkish breakfast traditions. We finish off this episode by talking about Nilou's passion of promoting and praising Iranian cuisine.

Where to find Nilou Motamed:

Where to find host Josh Sharkey:

What We Cover

(02:16) The evolution of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn
(5:22) The art of translation
(9:07) Opulence and travel
(14:28) The beauty of Turkey
(15:17) Breakfast and Haleem
(26:19) How Nilou speaks four languages
(30:45) Immigrant resilliance
(32:05) Persian cuisine
(43:39) Caviar
(47:17) How Nilou uses her platform to showcase Persian people and cuisine


Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]:

Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.


My guest today has been in food journalism for the past 20 plus years, creating the position of food editor for herself at Travel and Leisure uh, before moving on to Epicurious and then becoming the editor in chief of Food Wine Magazine. Nilou Motamed is an Emmy nominated writer, TV personality, former director of Inspiration with Conrad Hotels, and co founder of the brand and strategy consultancy firm, Story Collective.


She is currently a permanent judge on Netflix's revival of Iron Chef, and this is one of those conversations that could have gone on for hours, so much so that I decided to break it into two episodes. In this first episode with Nilou, we talk about her childhood fleeing Tehran during the Iranian Revolution and emigrating to Paris.


And then the US, uh, we talk a lot about Persian cuisine and culture, everything from Tariq to kebabs to, well, the casual art of enjoying great Iranian caviar. Uh, there's definitely a lot of chatter about great breakfast, Neelam really loves breakfast. Uh, so we talk about congee and pho and shakshuka and then, uh, she tells us, uh, about this Persian dish, uh, of shredded meat and oat, uh, called haleem.


Uh, then we shift into how she actually became the editor in chief of Food and Wine, uh, and the importance of surrounding yourself with really great people and always over delivering. Uh, Nilou is definitely an inspiration in so many ways, and I'm really grateful that we had a chance to chat. So as always, I hope that you enjoy the show as much as I did.

Nilou Motamed [00:2:01]: 


Josh Sharkey [00:2:02]: 

Hello there. 

Nilou Motamed [00:2:03]: 

Good morning. 

Josh Sharkey [00:2:04]: 

Good morning to you. How are you doing? 

Nilou Motamed [00:2:05]: 

I'm good. How are you? How are the suburbs?

Josh Sharkey [00:2:06]: 

Um, they are good. I hate to call them that because haha

Nilou Motamed [00:2:13: 

I mean, I grew up there so I can call, I feel like, 

Josh Sharkey [00:2:14]: 

No, I know we're like in the woods and I like, whenever I think of like the rows of houses, I'm like, okay.

Nilou Motamed [00:2:16]: 

Yeah. I'm not thinking like you're in like the, like a little ticky, ticky houses, ticky tacky houses. I mean, listen, I live in the suburbs of Brooklyn, so I feel like it's all the same. 

Josh Sharkey [00:2:29]: 

Well, I know where you live, where I lived for about 15, 20 years. I was in Park Slope most of my, for about 20 years before I came here.

Nilou Motamed [00:2:38]: 

Wow, so yeah, Caroll Gardens and Park Slope are basically twins, except for where I think they're a little bit more Italian. 

Josh Sharkey [00:2:46]: 

Yes, you're definitely more Italian. I've always had an affinity for Carroll Gardens, even though I spent most of my time in Park Slope, and there's way more restaurants in Carroll Gardens than...

Nilou Motamed [00:2:55]: 

Although now I think our neighborhood has gotten kind of, uh, completely overtaken by like... Fort Greene and Williamsburg in terms of good restaurants. It is true, we have decent restaurants, but now like the great restaurants are not in this neighborhood. It's okay. I mean, I can travel. Although Williamsburg is really far too far.

Josh Sharkey [00:3:14]: 

Just not. I don't even consider it Brooklyn. It's like its own thing, you know? 

Nilou Motamed [00:3:17]: 

Our friend Missy Robbins just opened this place called MP, which is just so good. And, uh, and I'm like, listen, you might as well have opened in a different city. I mean, it's true, Brooklyn is very big, but I mean, I want to go there all the time. And, uh, it's far. Again, I'm not complaining. It's quick from the city. 

Josh Sharkey [00:2:01]: 

It is quick from the city, but from Brooklyn, you kind of have to take an Uber, no matter what, I mean, which you kind of do anyways, but there's no real, you know, the trains, going that Greenpoint train is, that's madness. 

Nilou Motamed [00:2:01]: 

You know what I'm saying, exactly. Whereas like, it's quick, it's made for people who like commute from the city. 

Josh Sharkey [00:3:51]: 

Yeah, yeah. 

Nilou Motamed [00:3:52]: 

And also the fact that I call the city the city is also fun. 

Josh Sharkey [00:3:53]: 

I know. So I moved to New York in 1999, no 2000, and Williamsburg had one restaurant from Zach Palaccio called Chicken Bone, I think. Yeah. 

Nilou Motamed [00:4:07]: 

It's funny, I remember Zach's restaurant in Tribeca, or not Tribeca, in um, 

Josh Sharkey [00:4:08]: 

Oh, Five Nights, right?

Nilou Motamed [00:4:09]: 

In Meatpacking. In Meatpacking, Yeah, which I love. There was a, I still am obsessed with that preparation they did with the pickled watermelon rind. 

Josh Sharkey [00:4:12]: 

Oh Yeah. Yeah. 

Nilou Motamed [00:4:13]: 

I think it was like pig's ears, or, um, now I'm misremembering the dish, but it was really, really good. Really, really good 

Nilou Motamed [00:4:28]: 

Fatty crab was awesome.The oyster omelet.

Nilou Motamed [00:4:30]: 

That was really good But then he went on the upper west side and then he left. 

Josh Sharkey [00:4:32]:

Yeah. Well, he had the place in hudson That was also really good. 

Nilou Motamed [00:4:33]:

He still does, no?

Josh Sharkey [00:4:39]:

Well, he's got backbar And Fishing Game. Uh, I believe Fishing Game closed. 

Nilou Motamed [00:4:45]:

Did it during the pandemic? 

Josh Sharkey [00:4:46]:

Yeah, Back Bar is still there.

Nilou Motamed [00:4:49]:

We got married up in the Berkshires, and I feel like so much stuff has opened up, you know, up in Hudson Valley that was not at all, I mean, remotely. We got married in 2003. We're about to celebrate 20 years married. 

Josh Sharkey [00:5:02]:

Wow, that's amazing. Congratulations. That is incredible. We got married in the Catskills, uh, in, oh my god, Bovina Center, New York.

Nilou Motamed [00:5:11]:

Oh, Bovina, yeah. Yeah. A friend of ours lives in Bovina. It's supposed to be like a really, really cute community. 

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