Sapphire at School
Chef of Sapphire Laguna
San Juan Capistrano
Giving children a healthy start and arming parents with the tools to bring nutritious choices to their kitchens, Chef Azmin is making a huge difference in the way OC families look at food.
Father of four, San Juan Capistrano resident and lover of healthy food, Chef Azmin Ghahreman is leading the charge in Orange County’s food revolution with Sapphire at School. Using the namesake of his Laguna Beach restaurant, Sapphire Laguna, Sapphire at School utilizes the Mediterranean Food Pyramid to create a gourmet menu full of nutritious alternatives for OC students. Wondering what the food tastes like? If you’ve ever tried a dish at Sapphire Laguna, then you have a pretty good idea: delicious.
Parenting OC: Why did you create Sapphire at School?
Azmin Ghahreman: I made it my personal goal to improve the way people eat— especially children—and in 2007, I founded Sapphire at School. As a father of four, I’m committed to the idea that every child deserves the best beginning in life that we can provide them—and nutrition plays a vital role in a child’s success. Combining my decades of culinary experience with my passion for improving childhood nutrition and health, I made it my mission change the way children view food while broadening their minds and palates.
POC: Why did you decide to bring new eating options to OC schools?
AG: Along with a leading team of health, nutrition and culinary experts, I designed the Sapphire at School program to introduce healthy eating and delicious flavors to children before bad eating habits are formed. The processed food that is served in schools is causing health issues of epic proportions, and we must tackle this head-on to provide our kids with the resources necessary to live a long and healthy life. Our Sapphire at School chefs prepare meals with only real ingredients that are delivered fresh from local vendors. Also, all of our stocks, dressings and bakery goods are homemade—you can taste the difference.
POC: How do you inspire a healthy lifestyle in your family?
AG: I encourage my children to become involved in every step of the cooking process. They are my sous chefs and they even have their own little aprons. When we are grocery shopping, I educate and explain ingredients to them as we walk through our local farmers market. They work with me in the garden and help turn the fresh ingredients into delicious meals that we sit down to enjoy as a family. At a young age, they are learning how to shop, cook and eat smart.
POC: How do your children inspire your work?
AG: My children inspire me every day. They are curious, open-minded and so honest; they are the best focus group. It excites me that they take an interest in what I do. It’s a driving force behind my goal to always be better.
POC: What advice do you have for families looking to make healthier eating habits?
AG: Shop and cook as a family, and learn about food together. Parents will learn how to prepare healthy meals while children pick up healthy habits that will stay with them forever; it’s a win-win. I also encourage families to spend more time around the kitchen table. There is nothing that brings me greater joy than sitting down and sharing a home-cooked meal with my loved ones. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone from free-flowing conversation during a meal.
POC: How do you balance work time with family time?
AG: Family and food are my passions, but family always comes first. I have breakfast with my children every morning, my wife and I plan a weekly date night, and we cook as a family as much as possible. I have a very busy schedule, but I make it a point to be at the events that are important to my kids and wife. I have to rearrange appointments and schedule often, but I do whatever I have to do in order to be present and support my loved ones.
POC: What’s the best piece of advice you have for other working fathers?
AG: I suggest that all father’s make a conscious effort to slow down and smell the roses with their children. Live in the mindset that very little is more important than being there for your kids, and make sure that you are a prominent figure in their childhood memories.