Every Saturday morning, chef Forough Vakili visits the Freedom Farmers Market in Atlanta, arriving so early that she shops from the farmers’ crates before they set up their stands. She wanders around without a list, letting the available ingredients decide what she’ll cook for the rest of the week.
Vakili’s strong connection to seasonal foods began as she grew up on her family farm in Iran. Her family cooked and ate what they grew, their meals determined by whatever flourished during that time of year, from tomatoes to potatoes to carrots. They harvested wheat to make flour for the town baker. They even tended fields of saffron, which Vakili’s mother still grows and sends to her in bundles each winter.
When Vakili was 16, she moved to Atlanta to finish high school, later earning a degree in chemical engineering from Georgia Tech. Halfway through college, she started cooking for herself. “I realized that I knew so much without having [cooked much] before,” Vakili says. “But that’s because I grew up in the kitchen with my mother and my sisters and I guess through osmosis it got into my system.” After graduating, she worked in engineering, but with a push from her husband to follow her passion, she moved to Paris in 2011 to attend the culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu. She returned to Atlanta in 2013 and began writing plans to open her first restaurant, Le Bon Nosh.
Eight years later, this November, Vakili opened Le Bon Nosh in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. The name roughly translates to “the good bite,” a combination of Farsi, French, and Hebrew. “I wanted it to have hints of the different cultures and lives that I’ve lived,” Vakili says.
The café, market, and community space serves simple and elegant dishes in a warm atmosphere inspired by French cafés. Vakili is still focused on creating menus following the seasonality of food, sourcing many of her ingredients from farmers markets. This fall and winter, the menu features dishes including a gruyere, pear, and bacon galette and shakshuka prepared with farm-fresh eggs. For January, Vakili is working on a risotto special featuring saffron from her family’s farm.
Here, Vakili shares her fire-roasted mushroom tartine recipe, which she cooks on Le Bon Nosh’s wood-burning grill. “Food cooked on an actual fire has a whole different spirit in it,” she says. “And mushrooms are one of those things that you can find year-round. The variety will change, but you will always have mushrooms.”