Growing up in South Africa, Zinzi Chamanifard said, home cooking was a big deal.
“My mom cooked a lot; I grew up cooking,” Chamanifard said. “Cooking is a part of our culture.”
Chamanifard said she knew in high school that she wanted to cook professionally, and she went on to study at the South African Chef’s Academy. After working in several restaurants and running her own catering business, Chamanifard opened her own Moab restaurant, Hidden Cuisine (2740 S. Hwy 191), in 2018.
Hidden Cuisine serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“Breakfast is more like a mixture of European and Southern,” Chamanifard said, citing menu items such as the smoked salmon bagel with fresh dill cream cheese and homemade crepes and berry sauce, as well as Southern country-fried steak and biscuits and gravy.
The lunch menu features a selection of wraps and sandwiches served with fries, such as the Hidden Grilled Cheese Steak (steak sautéed with bell pepper and onions, with pesto aioli and melted cheese on a hoagie bun) and the Caprese Sandwich (tomatoes, lettuce, mozzarella cheese, basil pesto, fresh basil, Himalayan salt and drizzled balsamic reduction). There are also a number of salads, including the Quinoa, (pumpkin seeds, radish, spinach, cranberry, onions, orange with homemade citrus dressing), which Chamanifard said is a great summertime dish and also suitable for many diets like gluten-free and vegan, though diners can ask for chicken or salmon to be added. She also noted that all dressings are made in-house.
Chamanifard described the dinner menu as “South African fusion.” Some dinner dishes include Ratatouille & Feta Empanadas (eggplant, zucchini, tomato, feta, cilantro and onions, served with a creamy coconut dressing and homemade salsa), as well as Zinzi’s Burger (homemade seasoned juicy beef patty, bacon, brioche bun, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, topped with melted cheese and side of Soweto three-bean salad), and South African Style Riber (ribs cooked with herbs, finished off with a South African glaze and toasted sesame seeds, served with fries and Soweto three-bean salad).
Hidden Cuisine also offers from a list of fresh-squeezed juices and a coffee and espresso menu.
Moab local Ken Ballantyne is a Hidden Cuisine regular, often taking to Facebook to praise the meals and experience. He told the Moab Sun News that one of his favorite aspects of Hidden Cuisine is the owner herself, and also her husband, Amir.
“They are truly wonderful people,” Ballantyne said, adding that Chamanifard is “an exceptional chef.”
“I love the South African Ribs, the Cape Malay Chicken Roti, and the Spring Rolls,” he said. “Last time I visited, I ventured out with the Quinoa Citrus Salad with chicken....it was amazing.”
Chamanifard said that her business takes a lot of her time, and so when she is not there, she focuses on spending quality time with her family. She and her husband have a two-year-old daughter, and Chamanifard said the three of them do a lot of outdoor activities together: fishing, hiking and riding bikes.
Chamanifard also spoke to the impact on her business from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic shutdowns hit shortly after Chamanifard had bought the building that houses the restaurant.
“It caused a lot of hiccups...a lot of stress,” Chamanifard said, adding that she felt lucky to be “dealing with great people for financing” who worked with her through the financial setbacks.
Chamanifard said that even with fewer public health restrictions, she isn’t yet seeing the number of customers she normally would. She said it is also sometimes a challenge to get customers to follow new public health regulations, such as mask-wearing and social distance requirements inside the restaurant. But, Chamanifard said, Hidden Cuisine is committed to doing what it can to comply with public health regulations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are glad we are doing our part,” she said.
Even with the pandemic-related difficulties, Chamanifard expressed love for her work.
“I’m happy to do what I love to the best of my ability,” she said. “Seeing my customers happy every day brings me joy.”