Persian cuisine is unique to its culture, and not many Westerners are that familiar with their flavors. They have a wide variety of dishes served with rice, some of which give off a lovely, sweet aroma. Bread in Iran is served with almost every meal and range from crisp to soft flat bread. It is also customary to serve a dish of vegetables and herbs at the table. Chef Penny Davidi, an Iranian – American, added a hint of spice to the Food Network by making a name for herself on American television. She is the winner of Food Network's Chopped All – Stars and Cutthroat Kitchen. Penny once ran her own pizza business, "Rustic Pizza," and also won Food Network Magazine's Best Pizza Contest where she featured her Mediterranean Eggplant and Feta Cheese Pizza.
Penny is proud of her heritage and cooks a variety of authentic Middle Eastern dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. Now, with a successful culinary career, she still feels that the best way to cook is from the heart. She had no formal training and learned from her mother and grandmother. But she says, "That gives me the advantage and skills to think out the box." As young girl up she spent time in the kitchen at home with her grandmother and learned to cook while eating and sharing stories and would accompany her to the market to buy ingredients for the dishes. "Everything was done by hand," says Penny and spent many hours in the kitchen with her while she'd sauté the vegetables. Today Penny also entertains her daughters in the kitchen and bonds and cooks with them.
With her positive energy and love for cooking, Penny made a lasting impression on both the American audience and judges alike. Along with her traditional dishes, she added a special story passed down to her by her grandmother. Penny used Persian and Middle Eastern spices, such as cumin, turmeric, cardamom, and sumac to bring flavor to her dishes. The judges had tasted many of these spices before, but when they tried her dish with sumac they were "blown away."
She certainly did give the judges something to talk about and this "Middle Eastern Momma," as she calls herself even taught the judges "noosheh jaan," the Persian term for bon – appétit. When Penny was in the kitchen, she was never shy to express her opinion and also made sure that they all knew the difference between "Maast – o – khiar," and tzatziki. Some may find her a little over assertive, but Penny is just really focused and will stop at nothing on her culinary mission. Penny says, "I call it like I see it," and "I wear a ton of bling while cooking and competing."
Being the first Middle Eastern chef to feature on the Food Network, is it possible that she could be given her show to host? Penny aims to eventually do this and feature ethnic dishes from all across the country!