Community Member Pursues His Dream to Open Restaurant
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Christian Movassaghi found the passion to be a chef at age 15 with the inspiration of his grandmother.
Marian Chiago, who came from District 6 in Gila River, gave her grandson that confidence and inspiration by encouraging him to help her prepare foods and cook at an even younger age.
“My grandmother was my inspiration to cooking,” Movassaghi said. “She cooked a lot of traditional, indigenous foods from generations ago. She always made tepary bean recipes or cabbage stew, which I love to this day.”
Movassaghi attended culinary school at Scottsdale Community College and Le Cordon Bleu. He received an associate degree in occupational studies in culinary arts from SCC. “I loved the learning environment so much that I continued to get my bachelor’s in culinary management at Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale,” he said.
Movassaghi grew up in the Community living with his family, which included his mother, Shirley Chiago-Movassaghi, in VAII.
“I knew I always wanted to do the ‘Native thing,’ meaning cook traditional foods and one day open up a restaurant where we would be able to serve Native-style foods,” Movassaghi said.
That day came in October when be opened the Au-Authm Kitchen in Phoenix, on 19th Avenue near the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Movassaghi oversaw the businesses and created a menu featuring his favorite foods: Indian tacos, red chili with beef, popovers with powdered sugar and honey, as well as pizza and chicken wings. Sadly, the restaurant closed its doors not long after opening due to unexpected circumstances.
Movassaghi is battling brain cancer; he was diagnosed during a trip to the emergency room in 2015 for a severe migraine. Although he has had several surgeries and he continues to get chemotherapy treatments and MRI checkups, he remains positive about the future, hoping to regain his restaurant business not only for himself, but also for his young children as well.
“I liked being my own boss. I worked in areas where there were layers of management and [it was] very corporate,” said Movassaghi. “There at the kitchen, it was just me, and I liked it.”
In 2007, Movassaghi participated in the Community’s Native American Recognition Day as featured Community-member chef, preparing a lunch special at the Round House Café of roasted quail with lazy bread pudding, which was made from blue agave nectar and diabetic-friendly.
Movassaghi is also an alumnus of the Community’s Pathways to Success program, when he was cooking at Casino Arizona. He was the chef in the Arizona Room Patio Grill.
He’s not letting the medical issues hold him back. “A challenge is trying to keep the restaurant going,” he said, adding this for anyone pursuing their own dreams: “Stay true to what you want your message to be; just stay positive and try to work diligently.”