Hoss Zaré is Trapped in a Fairy Tale

I met Hoss Zaré at his Folsom Street restaurant and found myself instantly charmed by the quintessential charismatic proprietor. Ingratiating and amiable, you can’t help but root for the already successful restaurateur.
Born and raised in Tapriz, Iran, Zaré immigrated to the U.S. to pursue an education in medicine, with the ambition of becoming a brain surgeon. While in school, the expense of his tuition caused him to accept a job in San Francisco as a busboy, weathering three-hour long commutes to and from Davis. “I was [working in a restaurant] for one year just to support myself in school until I realized it was my true passion… Then it became a battle between school and cooking. I loved them both, but my whole goal was to be a brain surgeon.” Zaré and his younger brother had a bet: the first brother to become a surgeon would receive a car from the other.

However, Zaré found himself irresistibly drawn to the hospitality industry and left school to focus on his cooking.
Pursuing his passion, Zaré worked at a slew of San Francisco restaurants, absorbing everything he could about food, wine and the industry. And learn he did. As executive chef of hot spots Aromi and Ecco, he became known not only for his amazing cuisine, but for his obsequious concern for guests. Of his previous restaurant, Zaré Restaurant on Sacramento Street, he recalls, “Every night I was cooking in the kitchen, but no matter what, I used to run out [to the dining room] and find a guest and give her a rose.” While his culinary skills speak for themselves, his idiosyncratic tendencies and over-the-top hospitality have also hugely contributed to his success. During our conversation, he told me animatedly that if a party of 15 showed up to his intimate 45 seat Zaré Restaurant and he was unable to accommodate them, a limo would show up shortly after to whisk the overflow guests away to Zaré’s own house for drinks and dinner.

After opening several successful restaurants in San Francisco, followed by a stint in Napa, Zaré has triumphantly returned to the city to open the newly revamped Flytrap in August 2008. Complete with his DIY touches (signs fashioned from vintage dice that remind you of your waiting take-out) and a palatable Persian-inspired menu, Flytrap is the culmination of Zaré’s experience and his panache for creating innovative cuisine. Combining the inimitable menu with Flytrap’s talented staff, who extend the same warmth and zeal as the delightful owner, you can bet that this American dreamlike fairy tale will have a happy ending for Zaré. But what about that bet? Did Zaré buy his now heart surgeon brother a car? “In the end, he offered to buy me a car” Zaré says, “I was the winner because I am so happy in what I am doing.” Cheers to that. 

TEXT BY Kristel Peterson
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Rhiannon Nicole Anderson