Anoosh Shariat is only working about eight hours a day in recent weeks, down from about 16 before being diagnosed with colon cancer. Chemotherapy will do that to even the most active person.
But Shariat, who is 60, is being cautious more than anything else, using the time to rest his body, enjoy some downtime, spend a few more hours with his wife, Paula. Working “only” eight hours a day is a new experience for him, and he says he’s staying current on cooking trends via YouTube, reading a little and even watching some World Cup matches.
The truth is, he doesn’t have a lot of hobbies thanks to those 16-hour work days.
“For two years, we were looking around to find a hobby for Anoosh,” Shariat says, chuckling. “Play golf? I don’t have time. Do you paint? I don’t have time.”
But he enjoys watching World Cup the same way he enjoys the Olympics.
“The World Cup is always great to watch — you’ve got the best of the best,” he says. “What I love about it is the world playing a game, they get together, it’s a beautiful thing. We’re all the same when we see it. Everybody is in the same boat.”
The Persian-born chef has been cooking for decades, beginning with taking an interest when his mother would cook for the family and continuing later when he was attending high school in Germany and began working in a restaurant so he could get consistent access to good food.
“The food at the cafeteria was pretty bad,” he says.
Food, wine and poetry were the three most important things in his family, so the cafeteria wasn’t going to cut it. He began cooking in earnest when he signed on to work at a French restaurant, working for an executive chef who showed him how fine cuisine is created.
It was a natural fit, despite his initial interest in pursuing a career in electrical engineering. Food is important.
“People focus on food all day long,” Shariat says. “We always talk about what we’re eating next.”
He came to Texas with his sister when he was in his 20s and was plucked from a restaurant there to be executive chef at the now defunct upscale Louisville restaurant Remington’s in 1988. He’s been here ever since, building a reputation as one of the city’s premier chefs, having opened Shariat’s Restaurant in 1993.
Three years later, he made an appearance on the Discovery Channel’s “Great Chefs of America” series. In 2003, he closed Shariat’s to work as executive chef and operating manager for SoHo Catering, also working with Browning’s Restaurant & Brewery and MEZ. He opened Anoosh Bistro in 2013 and Noosh Nosh, both located in the Brownsboro Road Shopping Center. Both are still operating, with Shariat heavily involved.
But he’s not as heavily involved as before. Shariat recently hired his longtime protégée Mark Ford, formerly of Artesano Tapas Vinos Y Mas, St. Charles Exchange and the Louisville Country Club, to take over executive chef duties at Anoosh Bistro.
“It’s the right timing, I think,” Shariat says. “Mark was available, and I was looking for the right person. He’s passionate about his cuisine and has the fire in his belly to be a great chef for the restaurant.”
Meanwhile, he can take the much-needed time to heal and rest. He undergoes chemotherapy every other week and is seven treatments in with many more to go.
“It’s funny, because the restaurant business consumes you,” he says. “For restaurant operators, we’re on all the time. I always say, ‘If it’s busy, we have to work; if it’s slow, we have to work.’ The fact is, now I have to sit back a little bit. I think the reality is, doing chemo, I don’t know what to expect. Am I going to be flatlined? Am I going to be bedridden?”
Shariat seems energetic and happy as he sips coffee from an old Browning’s mug. He looks vibrant, but he clearly has lost weight. Still, he’s far more concerned about making sure his staff knows he’s not closing the restaurant than he is his health.
He’s more concerned about maintaining the quality of service and food provided at Anoosh Bistro.
“They’re the ones doing it,” he says. “I’m going to be their cheerleader. I’m going to be their mentor and be there to support them just like I did before.”
Meanwhile, he wants to help raise awareness for cancer charities, general health maintenance and, especially, caregivers of people with debilitating illness, be it cancer, dementia or anything else. In his mind, the caregivers suffer as much as the patients, and perhaps more.
He’s always been a proponent of Gilda’s Club, but now he has a more personal reason to appreciate the local organization, which supports the families of cancer patients.
And he recommends everyone get their colonoscopy when the time comes.
“I waited, so it’s my fault,” he says. “Listen to your body and go get it checked.”
But he’s not about to throw in the towel, and he sure isn’t stripping off his chef’s coat. He’s just taking life a bit more slowly than he has in his nearly five decades in the culinary world. He’s facing the challenge with a smile.
“With any cancer, your spirit has to be strong,” he says. He chuckles. “I’m living with cancer, I’m not dying from it.”