Naha’s Carrie Nahabedian

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“Success is in the details.”

When I walked into Naha, Chef Carrie Nahabedian was sitting a few feet away, but I didn’t recognize her because she recently shed 160 pounds. However, she hasn’t lost an ounce of her charming personality and warm nature. Ms. Nahabedian and her cousin Michael Nahabedian are co-owners of Naha, and the two recently opened Brindille – a refined Parisian restaurant with a sexy dining room. I’ve always looked up to her, but now I love her for a whole new slew of reasons. After you read this interview, I bet she’ll have you hooked too.

Favorite part of what you do?
That, for one meal, I can make people happy.

Least favorite?
Everything that owning a business entails that takes you away from what you originally got into the business for.

Well put. For example?
If all I had to do was cook every day, it’d be a piece of cake. But I’m a chef and businesswoman, so I deal with taxes, media, payroll. It’s all-encompassing.

Pet peeves.
The greatest travesty in dining is when a handsome couple is dining out and the first thing they do is put their phones on the table. Are you the president of the United States? Why do you need your phone?

Favorite cooking magazine.
I grew up on Gourmet and still miss that. Also, Saveur.

How do you cook at home?
Simply. I went on a very big health kick recently…

You look amazing!
Thank you. I don’t cook like I used to cook at home – that’s for sure.

What’s your weight loss secret?
Giving up everything you love. Extreme discipline. Lots of help from doctors and nutritionists to scare you to death to do it.

Name one trend you wish would die.
Twitter…and I’m waiting for the cupcake/donut craze to die. And the casual, dineresque type of dining should go away.

What’s the next big thing in dining?
A more refined dining experience. The time has come for a spectacular, over-the-top seafood restaurant. And the whole continent of Africa has yet to be portrayed in a restaurant.

Finish this sentence: There’s never enough time…
…between lunch and dinner.

Favorite grocery store.
I’m not a huge shopper, but I’ve been somewhat turned on by Mariano’s. I’m amazed at what they have.

Biggest fear.
Failure. Not being able to do what I set out to do and having to adjust with economic conditions.

If you were an ingredient, what would you be?
Fennel or an orange because I love what you can do with these ingredients. They can be transformed with just two steps.

Your most commonly used phrase.
My motto: ‘Excellence or success is in the details.’ The one that isn’t in my vocabulary is, ‘It’s fine.’ The word ‘fine’ is barely acceptable.

Name your heroes.
Julia Child, Alain Ducasse…my mother, aunt and grandmother.

What makes you laugh?
Working with Michael every day – that makes everyone laugh.

What makes you cry?
That’s my biggest weakness; I’m very emotional. It could be anything.

Greatest accomplishment.
I cooked Kosher during Passover for 1,500 people for the 50th anniversary of the statehood of Israel.

The secret to perfect happiness.
Doing what you love to do, in good health, surrounded by great friends and family. My favorite quote is, ‘Being able to enjoy success is the best reason for achieving it.’

In your next life you’ll be.
A housekeeper. I’m on a never-ending quest for cleanliness and perfection. Or a big whale shark, just cruise all over the world and have no predators.

Adrian Orozco Photograph

Sarah Levy

About Sarah Levy Imberman

Sarah Levy delighted millions as the owner and proprietor of Sarah's Pastries & Candies, one of Chicago's most popular confectionaries since its opening in 2004. A graduate of Northwestern University and the French Pastry School, Ms. Levy is the author of Sweetness: Delicious Baked Treats for Every Occasion and the winner of the Food Network Challenge. She’s been featured in USA TodayBetter Homes and Gardens and the Chicago Tribune, among many others. Ms. Levy's now doing business as S. Levy Foods, and is a leader in the airport food concession business.