94: Meet Zara Abbasi


1. Name, occupation, years in LR, Neighborhood: Zara Abbasi; Pastry Chef (with a law degree) at Natchez Restaurant; 17 years in Little Rock; Walnut Valley in West Little Rock.

2. How did you get involved with Natchez? I want to tell you that this was always my plan and that I had everything mapped out but, that's clearly not the case. I baked and cooked a lot in my free time and my day job was in the legal field and then I went to law school. Regardless of the legal path I had chosen for myself, cooking and baking have always been my everything; my escape from everything as well as my source of personal growth. After law school, while deciding whether to take the Bar Exam here or in California, I sought out something that would not only be fun but that would also give me some creative freedom. I was offered a few culinary positions here in town but nothing appealed to me until I learned Natchez was hiring. Before I ever applied, I researched the restaurant, the owner and her cooking style. It gave me an idea about her palate, thinking & personality. I emailed my paltry and scant culinary resume to Alexis and was shocked she offered me a two-week stage. I was offered a permanent pastry chef position shortly thereafter and it's been such a wonderful experience. I hope our relationship grows in the future.

3. What is, hands down, your favorite meal you can only get in Little Rock? This is really an unfair question. I'm so weird about 'favorites', mainly because there's a favorite meal for different situations and there are just so many choices! For instance, for breakfast, it's got to be Mylo's. Their pastries are the only things that get me up early on the weekends. To be specific, it's the kouign amann that wakes me up bright and early. For lunch, I love the prime rib and horseradish sandwich at Boulevard Bread (or the Rustico, a balsamic chicken sandwich, if they're out of the prime rib). For a snack, I could inhale the spicy chicken and dumplings from Southern Gourmasian. For a casual dinner, it has to be the mushroom burger with sweet potato fries at Big Orange. I love burgers and the one at Big Orange just gets me. For a more refined, dinner, the short rib risotto at Natchez is heaven! There are obviously so many more favorites but this is a good starting point. As you can see, I love to eat. 

4. Finish this sentence: My job is awesome because...It's not a job. I go in on my days off and can't wait to go in the next day.  This is not a day job that gets in the way of my hobbies or interests. It's an incredible job I have, to go in to "work", think up dessert ideas, execute them, get creative freedom, work alongside Alexis (who's incredibly talented), and other friends, and then go home thoroughly happy to greet my family. This is not a job. It's a blessing that everyone should be able to experience. I've worked really hard at my fair share of jobs that were not a good fit. This is that "Ah-ha" moment when almost everything aligns.

5. Describe your perfect night out in LR: My family and I are huge movie-goers. The first thing out of my mouth to either my husband or my brother if I have a free night is, "Do you want to go watch a movie?" I love going to Rave, piling up on extra buttery popcorn, a large coke and a comfy sweater.  I'd movie hop if I could. Therefore, a perfect night out would start with an available babysitter first, getting to the movie on time for once, watching a movie and then meeting up with friends later that night at either The Pantry, South on Main to see the lovely David Burnette, or Ciao Baci.

Did I mention you should try her peanut butter pie?