Fort Worth chef Denise Shavandy finds inspiration everywhere she looks—acclaimed restaurants, street food vendors, farmers’ markets, cookbooks. But one source of ideas stands out above the others: “My mother-in-law,” she says. “She’s an amazing cook! She prepares traditional Persian and Turkish dishes with so much finesse. They all have her own take, things you just don’t see here. She expanded my horizons.” Denise married Majid Shavandy 22 years ago, but it wasn’t until his parents started coming to the States for extended periods in 2004 that she got to know her mother-in-law, who hails from Turkey (her father-in-law is Iranian). Her professional experience had grounded her in the essentials of European techniques, but thanks to her new mentor, she was introduced to the equally sophisticated traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean. Since 2015 Shavandy has been the executive chef of Café Modern, at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. She wants visitors who stop in for brunch or dinner to come away thinking that the food was just as thought-provoking as the institution’s superb collection and stunning building. For a holiday gathering, she loves dishes that can be made a day or two ahead. After all, the cook should have fun too.
Recipes for East Meets West
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Texas Monthly. Subscribe today.