A lot of the joy of Salt Fat Acid Heat comes from watching Nosrat’s reactions: crying with laughter after choosing the spiciest salsa on the table, gently helping to lift honey from a hive of tiny bees and being bossed around the kitchen by her own mother. Her friends expressed surprise that she wasn’t more polished or TV-ready, but was just as goofy as she is in person. This, she says, was deliberate.
“Various things happened that I do think threatened to squash that out of me, whether it was a make-up artist applying too much make-up or whatever.” Each time, the producers would step in and make sure that she appeared as herself. Her differences, they said, were a good thing.
Talking about these differences is one of the few topics that stops Nosrat from launching into stories and jokes. She hesitates as if to make sure she is explaining herself properly. Born in San Diego to Iranian parents who arrived in the US a few years before she was born, Nosrat was often in a minority of one as she grew up.
“Recently, I was like, ‘Did I imagine that my childhood was so white?’ And then someone from my high school cross-country team posted this picture and I was, like — holy shit — it really was.” She shows me the picture. It really was.
Now she thinks standing out made her good at learning to fit in. “Deep into making the show, I realised I am uniquely skilled to go into places where people are caught off guard and uncomfortable with 20 cameras coming in and millions of dollars of equipment, and to help them forget they are there so we can have a genuine experience.”
Originally, the Acid section of the show was going to be filmed in Iran, before a change in US travel advice meant production was moved to Mexico. It is still on her mind. “The world I came into valued a very limited type of culinary expertise. I had to immerse myself in French and Italian cooking to become a ‘real’ cook and a ‘good’ cook. I had to learn those techniques and that language and history and background.” If she ever mentioned to professional chefs around her the ways that her Iranian mother did something, it was discounted as unorthodox.
Things are changing now. Even so, she has no desire to return to the grind of running a restaurant, preferring to think about food as a writer. Today it is Cornish hens. “I’ve been thinking a lot recently — what if you broke a Cornish hen into quarters and nestled it among bread so that, as it roasts, the chicken juices go in the bread and you then had other stuffing flavours in there ... ”
Netflix viewers would be more than happy to watch Nosrat travel to new countries, describing the food she eats. The rapturous reception to the first series warrants a second. But there is a bigger project in the back of her mind. Eventually, she wants to create her own production company. The goal is to tell diverse stories, work with the right people and be happy, she says. “Ultimately, I just want to create good juju for my own self and my daily life and then let that radiate out, you know?”