What inspired you to start a restaurant?
Madness. It’s something I’d always loved. Even as a child I always really enjoyed going out to restaurants. When I was getting ready to do this, I saw the need for the particular type of restaurant we were going to open. Also, I was really excited about what was going to be happening downtown and I wanted to be a part of that.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Be truthful, gentle, and fearless.” -Mahatma Ghandi
What keeps you committed to your businesses?
I love what I do. I really truly enjoy what I do. I care about what I do. I like our guests, employees. It’s exciting to me. And we have investors, being fair and honest to them, keeping my word and doing what I told them I would do helps keep me committed.
What else are you committed to?
Authenticity in everything. It’s very important to me to come from a genuine place. An authentic place. I’m very committed to my marriage and my husband, that along with everything else is what helps me be the very best person I can be. And to be kind with those beliefs and however they come out.
What keeps you motivated?
A drive to be the best that I can be at what I do.
How has working with your spouse impacted your business?
It’s been wonderful, I’ve loved it. Working with Tony has very positively impacted my business. I opened Church & State before I was married and it has been an absolute joy to be working with my spouse. I hear from different people, they couldn’t imagine it, for me it has been really lovely. For us, a lot of times, it’s such long hours and it’d be easy to let bleed into our personal lives. I’m very strict about putting an end to work when work is done. I’m a restaurateur but not chef, that aspect has always been very challenging for me so to have Tony manage the aspect I’m not as familiar with has taken a huge, huge weight off me. We have a lot of fun together, it’s amazing to work with someone who is committed to the same things personally and professionally. Tony has such a commitment to excellence, he has taught me a lot and raised the bar on what I do and how I do it.
What is your favorite place in Los Angeles?
How do you spend your free time?
At home and with family. We tend to eat at home, I find it much more relaxing than going out these days. And we love to go to the movies. We also have season passes to the opera.
Do you have a specific vision for your restaurants in the future?
Yes, we definitely do. We want it to be an authentic experience of whatever it’s supposed to be. We’re committed to doing whatever we do, purely, authentic, and simple. Graceful simplicity from the dining room, to the service, really everything. I find that some in the hospitality business, forget the hospitality part of it. The most important thing as far as a vision is a commitment to hospitality. To be hospitable in every way.
What is your favorite part of the restaurant business?
Interacting with our guests. It’s the essence of what we do. The most important part of our business is hospitality. Tony truly enjoys going to tables and talking to guests and if they have a special requests, he works to make that happen. I love our guests. The challenges are fun, too. The situations and challenges that arise and when you’re able to handle them gracefully and make it better for the guests. It’s thrilling to me when people leave happy.
What is your biggest challenge?
It seems that a lot of people now, in a lot of industries, don’t have longevity with what they do. A lot of people want to take a job or say it’s their profession and the second things aren’t going the way they envisioned or the way they like, they head a different direction. I’m seeing a lower level of commitment than what I was used to when I was coming up in the professional world. Honestly, I think that stems from a lack of commitment in people to themselves. When I was younger, and even now, when I decided to do something, I did it. Fun or not, easy or not.
What dish is most to die for at each of your restaurants?
Church & State has an amazing charcuterie plate. All of it is made in house including cured meats and pâtés, I think that is pretty spectacular.
At Spring we serve a vegetable plate. Each vegetable is cooked individually and in the correct way to best suit that particular vegetable. Then they’re all combined together in one dish with a vinaigrette made from the jus from cooking the vegetables. And it changes depending which produce is in season so you’re only getting the very best vegetables at any time.
Aside from great food, what moves you?
People. Who they are, what moves them, what they love, what’s interesting to them.
What is your dream project?
I’m Iranian and I think it would be pretty cool to create an Iranian restaurant with traditional food made using the highest quality ingredients in an environment that is very old fashioned and traditional. And it would have great wine.
What is your favorite CED design and how does it make you feel?
A ring that she made for me with an enormous aquamarine. I went to a gem show that she did, my birthstone is aquamarine and I’ve never been crazy about aquamarine until I saw that stone. I saw it and it was so beautiful and spectacular. So I talked to her about making a ring for me. The ring is big, very prominent and modern which is typically not my aesthetic, but I love this ring and I love the stone. It makes me feel like me. I loved being involved with Claudia and the process of making the ring.