Berkeley restaurants

Oakland’s hottest baker wants diners to ask the tough questions about food

The Big Dill Kitchen owner just doesn’t make enough money to be a business owner, but she’s fine with it. Helia Sadeghi is getting a lot of attention for her role in the booming pandemic pop-up game and for her remarkable story as a young Iranian immigrant attending UC Berkeley college. Her story and the way food is connected to her life sometimes leads people to assume she’s running a business, but instead she’s interested in challenging age-old eating habits and practices that at the opening of a restaurant.

“I didn’t consider myself a business owner until these interviews came out,” Sadeghi says. “I don’t even see myself as an educator lecturing people. I just want to talk about developing recipes, working with people to create their flavors and elements, and curating menus. I hope other people can also explore this.

She’s working on a website that, once up and running in September, will highlight regional iterations of similar foods — like the nuance between samosas, which hail from South Asia (and all those different toppings and flavors), and the sambooseh in Iran, for example. She says most of the time people just want a culinary experience, but it’s important to her that people also understand the importance of simple ingredients like rice and yogurt.

Helia Sadeghi is a baker and a cook, yes, but she is obsessed with the stories and traditions of food.
Great dill cooking

Sadeghi says she thinks the Bay Area needs more experimentation and description when it comes to food. A small activity is writing little blurbs to accompany the dishes, like the way Sadeghi breaks down the dishes on his Instagram account; Meanwhile, a friend of hers recently hosted a pop-up showcasing the fruits that make up a Yemeni candy. “They wrote a bit about the specific Yemeni raisin and how it’s different from others in America,” Sadeghi says. “It gets people asking questions and connecting with food beyond something that fills you up and tastes delicious.”

As for recommendations for learning more about your favorite food, Sadeghi says she’s no food expert (although some might disagree). But, to start, diners can ask what kinds of traditional resources were available in the region where the cuisine originated, such as corn for Central America, for example, or lamb in Iran. The agricultural history behind each ingredient can illuminate the sensitivities and details behind each dish.

Of course, his exploration of the untold stories of food began with Iranian food. She loves Komaaj for its hyperlocal cuisine and fermentation methods, but she also shouts out James Beard-winning Understory Worker Collective in Oakland. “They give space to people who want to showcase their cuisine,” Sadeghi says. “It’s not just a business owner with a menu, but a place that brings together many cultures and cuisines.” She started learning about politics and food cultures in school and her specific experience internationally, but books like Gastronomy and Empire by Rachel Laudan Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by Kat Anderson, and Cooking the native way by The Chia Cafe Collective also help her see food a bit more critically.

She is not the only baker to rely on their identity to draw inspiration from pastry and cooking. Hosna Tavakoli in San Francisco designs custom cakes and Sheekoh Moosavi in ​​Palo Alto molds bon bon, both inspired by their homes in Iran. Ultimately, showcasing underappreciated and underserved kitchens, like those at SSWANA, is what Sadeghi wants to do. “It won’t just happen in pop-ups,” Sadeghi says. “But posting about it and talking about foods that haven’t been noticed or highlighted is one of them. My hope is to bust some of the myths out there that it’s not just rice and kebab and what’s been politicized.

Stay connected to Big Dill Kitchen’s instagram for upcoming pop-ups, to request a custom cake or event, and to participate in Sadeghi’s Food Exploration.