Ashkan Famili of Yalda's Persian and Middle Eastern
All photos by Cameren Rogers, courtesy of Yalda’s Persian and Middle Eastern

Resy QuestionnaireAtlanta

20 Questions with Yalda’s Ashkan Famili


In the Resy Questionnaire, we play a game of 20 questions with the industry folks behind some of our favorite restaurants. What’s your most memorable restaurant experience? Your favorite cookbook? What restaurant would you want to time-travel for?

In this edition, we spoke to Ashkan Famili, the founder and owner behind Yalda’s Persian and Middle Eastern Restaurants in Sandy Springs and West Midtown.

The Resy Questionnaire

1. Favorite thing you’ve ever cooked?

Duck fesenjoon (Persian stew with walnut and pomegranate). It was my first time hunting the bird and butchering it. Also, making homemade molasses was cool. We picked pomegranate from the tree at my grandmother’s house and that was a lot of fun. For me, it’s all about the process and stories.

2. Kitchen tool or equipment you couldn’t live without?

A cast-iron pan.

3. What pantry items would you bring on a desert island?

Salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, soy sauce, and harissa seasoning.

Tables at Yalda's
The space at Yalda’s in West Midtown.
The dining room at Yalda's Westside

4. What’s your favorite place to get barbecue in Atlanta?

5. Favorite cookbook?

Modern Greek Cooking,” by chef Pano Karatassos.

6. Your drink of choice?

Mezcal Tobalá on ice, splash of water, slice of grapefruit.

7. If you weren’t a chef, what other profession do you think you’d take up?

I’d pursue becoming a professional butcher.

8. Your ideal dinner party guest, dead or alive? 

Anthony Bourdain.

9. What restaurant industry person do you admire the most?

I’ve always admired Anthony Bourdain’s passion for the industry and his ability to tell stories, but sadly, he’s no longer here. I also enjoy watching Action Bronson’s videos and it seems that he is genuinely passionate about the industry as well.

10. The greatest restaurant experience of your life so far?

There’s a few of them — like Le Bernardin in New York — but traveling to different countries and enjoying local food is always the best for me.

Le Bernardin tuna dish
Dishes at Le Bernardin. Photos courtesy of Le Bernardin
Le Bernardin tart

11. Your greatest professional achievement?

Creating job opportunities for passionate people like me and allowing them to shine through their hard work and creativity.

12. What single dish best describes your personality?

Ghormeh sabzi, a traditional Persian stew that consists of stewed beef or lamb mixed with herbs (parsley, cilantro, fenugreek), red kidney beans, and served with tahdig saffron rice.

13. If you could go back in time, which restaurant would you dine at?

I would have loved to dine at Umbertos Clam House in New York back in the late 70’s and 80’s.

14. Your favorite meal from childhood?

Late-night hot dogs with crazy toppings at my great-aunt’s house were the best.

15. What is your wish for the restaurant industry?

For people to feel proud that they work in this industry.

16. What do you wish you did better? What do you do well?

Do better: I try to improve on my communication skills every day.

Do well: Anything team related.

Yalda's Zereshk polo with chicken
Yalda’s zereshk polo with chicken.
Tahdig at Yalda's
Yalda’s tahdig.

17. If you could eat through a city for a day, where would you go?

New York City.

18. The one thing you can’t resist splurging on when you go out?

A healthy amount of oysters.

19. What do you value most in restaurants?

As my old mentor, Pano Karatassos, used to say, “Good food tastes even better with great service.”

20. It’s your last meal on earth, what are you eating?

A good saucy lasagna that would put me to sleep.


Noëmie Carrant is Resy’s senior writer. Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.