Samin Nosrat: tile makes the kitchen

by clé tile | published: Jan 17, 2023

warm, brimming with infectious enthusiasm, self-effacing, with an uncanny ability to keep it real while imparting hard-won wisdom. that’s Samin Nosrat: chef, culinary adventurer, author of the best-selling book Salt Fat Acid Heat, and creator of the hit Netflix show of the same name. 

from Iran to Chez Panisse: Samin’s influences

what draws us to Samin is her devotion to craft, culture, heritage, and our shared humanity. it’s a commitment formed, no doubt, by both her personal and professional DNA: she was born in the US of Persian extraction with a career that started—and blossomed—under the tutelage of Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters.

while knowledge and talent are, of course, at the core of this success, so is her authenticity: her commitment to bringing her passions, beliefs, and her personality to anything she does, whether it’s picking up a new dish, educating a new generation of cooks—or creating a kitchen for her new home. so when she came to clé to pick tile for her kitchen, we were curious as to what would catch her eye.

zellige was the natural choice

in designing her kitchen, she chose a quintessentially Samin combination of clé tile: zellige forgotten turquoise 4x4, natural 2x6 and gold 2x6. Exuberant, unexpected, and rooted in heritage, it’s a gutsy palette filled with personality—and a far, far cry from all the white kitchens that fill our feeds. 

where design and cooking collide

it’s true, we’re obsessed with design and architecture (and for many of us, fashion), but we’re almost as passionate about our food and our cooking. we love the results of course, but we also venerate the process—one that’s not unlike the process of making tile. it takes patience and persistence to source the best (and often most simple) ingredients, and a craftsman’s commitment to learning how to work with them. both processes allow fire to have its way with those precious ingredients and require an acceptance of transformation—especially when the result is unexpected and invariably imperfect. above all, both are nourishing to the eye, palette, and soul. 

we’ve been featured in many a design-worthy kitchen and Samin’s is no exception, but hers might be the most personal one we’ve come across yet. read on for some highlights from our recent chat with her.

we’re huge fans of what you do, of course, and are thrilled that you chose clé tile for your kitchen! what about our tile resonated with you?

i generally revel in the handmade, the natural, the imperfect. when it comes to aesthetic and sensory choices, i want to surround myself with things that feel alive, where i can sense that there was a person on the other end of the object. clé tiles are just that—i can see and feel the artist’s hand in each tile. they’re all different. it’s why they are perfect. 

we loved the combination you put together! what made you choose those colors? and what inspired you to use what we call our ultimate neutral—gold zellige?

well, if i could have, i would have chosen all gold! i am Persian, after all. but i simply couldn’t afford it. 

i was drawn to the turquoise because I wanted to ground at least one aspect of the design in my ancestry. when I was 21, I took an arduous multi-day bus trip from Tehran with my grandmother to visit the gorgeous 1,500-year-old mosques of Isfahan and Shiraz and was stunned by the otherworldly beauty of the mosaic tilework. i’d never seen anything like it. and the colors! my favorite color has always been turquoise, so to see it reflected in my ancestral homeland in this meaningful way was incredibly powerful. i’ve had a near-holy relationship with the color turquoise ever since.

to be honest, i also knew the combination would look fantastic alongside the brass hardware I'd chosen for the kitchen.

now that it’s done, how does the kitchen feel? has it changed the way you feel about cooking/being in that space? how important are aesthetics when you’re cooking: do you feel the aesthetics change the way you cook?

i feel so lucky every time I step inside; i can't believe i get to work in such a beautiful space. the lightness, the brightness, and the beauty definitely make me feel happier when i'm cooking, and especially when i'm cleaning! i think about geometry and color a lot as i'm cooking—how something will look on the plate—so it's nice to be surrounded by such pleasing shapes and colors while I cook. 

as a professional, you probably have a more exacting way of thinking about kitchen design that we could learn from—but at the same time, we’d imagine it’s also very personal to the way you cook and who you are. what are your top 3 tips and what are your personal idiosyncrasies when it comes to kitchen design?

i’ve only ever had very small kitchen spaces to work with, so my #1 tip is to make good use of vertical space! things like pot racks, shelves, and hooks (and Swedish broom holders) utilize every inch of possible storage. 

next, i weigh aesthetics and practicality when making choices both in how and where to store things. sometimes i have to use a big plastic tub—it just makes the most sense. it doesn't always make sense to leave things out in the bright light, where they might look nice, but will spoil or collect dust more quickly. and finally, prioritize comfort, because if you’re uncomfortable, you won’t want to cook. i love anti-fatigue mats and use them liberally, and the beauty of having a custom-designed kitchen is that i could have the counters built to my height so now i don’t have to bend over when I’m chopping or stirring or washing dishes. make life easy, comfortable, and pleasurable when you can manage to, and you’ll enjoy everything a little bit more. 

what meal/recipe does the tile remind you of?

the handmade quality of the tiles reminds me of a short crust, pressed into a pan. and when i think of short crust, i think of a golden Meyer lemon tart. 

what does the tile say about you?

it says i value the handmade; i value bright, beautiful colors. and I try to make an intentional decision in even something as small as a tile color. i try to weave a story into every part of my life—even a tile color. it connects me to my grandmother and all of my maternal ancestors, cooking before me, every time I step into the kitchen.

what’s next for Samin?

my father just passed away. it’s been a very hard year, full of a lot of heartbreak, sadness and complicated feelings, especially on the family front. though i am grieving, and will be for a time yet, i am also, as a result, very consciously turning toward beauty, nature, creativity, friendship, artistry, and life. i hope to cook more in my little kitchen and gather my friends and loved ones around the table—it’s the most important thing.

we couldn’t agree more.