Chef Samir Mohammad, a native of Taos, N.M., who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco and the well-regarded Culinary Institute of Arts in Napa, Calif., opened 9th Street Bistro in Noblesville, Ind., with his Hoosier wife, Rachel, at the height of the pandemic. While Rachel handles the intimate eatery’s dining room, chef Samir changes the menu monthly to showcase Indiana’s bounty. Already an award-winning chef on the West Coast, he made the semi-finalist list for Best Chef Great Lakes Region this year in the James Beard Foundation Awards.
What made you want to become a chef?
I love being able to transform ingredients into dishes that nourish the body and soul. I like how food brings people together and that I’m able to give guests a memorable experience. I love that a dish can transport you to another time, stirring favorite memories of people or places that you haven’t seen in a while.
What is your favorite type of food and why?
I love Asian cuisine because of the diversity of ingredients and cooking styles across the continent. I have traveled to Singapore and Indonesia, where I learned how to make various curries as well as simple dishes such as Hiananese Chicken. I love pho, ramen, and haven’t met a dumpling I wouldn’t eat.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from locally grown, seasonal produce and am also inspired by interesting ingredients. I like to showcase the innate flavors rather than serve dishes that are complex with a multitude of elements on one plate. My wife and I love to travel – we try to take a trip to another country every year – and I get a lot of inspiration from the places we’ve been and the countries we have yet to visit.
What is your favorite thing to make for yourself and your family?
I love to utilize my smoker – put something on that can go low and slow so I can relax and enjoy company while cooking.
If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would that be and what would you eat?
I would go to Singapore, to a hawker’s market, and I would eat everything.
If you could choose a favorite place in Indiana to visit, where would that be located and what would you eat?
My mother-in-law’s property and my wife’s childhood home in Lafayette. We eat whatever I can make out of the ingredients on hand from her garden or in her fridge and pantry.
What items are always in your fridge?
Always soda water, cans of Lambrusco and condiments. Often leftover Thai food. Not much else!