Q&A with Fery Catering’s Fery Haghighi
~July 15th, 2021
Fereshteh “Fery” and Ahmad Haghighi arrived in the U.S. in September 1980. They had fled from Tehran, Iran, where the revolution threatened their lives. One of Fery’s brothers was a government official when the uprising began. Another brother lived in Spokane at the time and worked with U.S. officials to bring the family to Washington state. Fery says going from a life of luxury in Iran—with cooks, drivers, and waiters—to having almost nothing to her name was a shock.
In Spokane, the Haghighis established French pastry shop and cafe Au Croissant. After the cafe closed, Fery decided to go into catering and opened Fery’s Catering LLC in 1995.
The company is still doing business as Fery’s Catering & Take-Out, at 421 S. Cowley. It currently has seven employees, some of whom are Haghighi family members.
The Journal sat down with Fery Haghighi, 79, in the small building that’s housed the catering business for more than 25 years to talk about her connection to Spokane, her culinary experiences, and what could be next for the business.
How did you start your first business, Au Croissant?
My brother was very kind and generous. He gave us a blank check and bought a house for our parents and us. I was so upset, because he was feeding us, and I hated that. So, he told us to find a job. We tried very hard to see what we could do. Then I remembered, in Iran we had lots of French influence, and I lived in France on and off. I thought, why not open a bakery and make croissants?
I wasn’t into baking and cooking. I’d done nothing. Finally, we found a baker from Seattle. This was after a year and a half. We started Au Croissant. My brother gave us money and he came to the bank and cosigned for us on everything. He was thinking, well, let them be happy for a while, they’re going to go bankrupt, because they don’t know anything. We were so successful, it was unbelievable. We had to have a cash register, but we didn’t know we could buy change from the bank. Everyone who came in, my husband asked, do you have a dime or a nickel? We started getting on track. Spokane has been wonderful to us. The people are wonderful.
How did you start Fery’s Catering?
We were not business smart. Ahmad was a geologist, and I had never worked. We didn’t know how to expand. America is different than other parts of the world. Here, everything comes and goes.
There came a time when they said cholesterol was bad. We tried quite hard. We brought a lady from the hospital—she was a nutritionist, and she gave me ideas. We tried hard, but business dropped. We had a pastry chef from France. I worked ‘round the clock with him. After three years, he decided he was ready to move. When he left, we closed.
I thought going to catering would be easier. We moved here and started the catering business in 1995. This time, we bought the building. I thought, this will be easy on me, I’m going to have a few caterings. Then, it took off.
What’s the focus of Fery’s Catering?
Healthy food, truly homemade. The only oils we use are canola or olive. We never deep fry unless an order calls for it. My husband always told me, ‘you don’t have a hospital, you have a restaurant—use butter, put cream in things.’ I never do unless it’s an Italian dish that requires a little cream. The food has to be tasty and doesn’t have to have a lot of cheese or butter. I use a lot of herbs. I have a garden in the back. I grow my herbs. I dry them, and I use them year-round.
Have you had any formal training?
I used to throw parties at my house a lot. I was cooking fancy things at home. When we came here, I started with a book from Julia Child. I made beef bourguignon. I was reading cookbooks. And then I went to France. I went to Cordon Bleu, and I went to La Varenne. At Cordon Bleu, I was just watching. At La Varenne, I was cooking at school. Cordon Bleu is more nationally known, but La Varenne was about training. I spent a month at La Varenne, training from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. At night, they’d send us to restaurants, to observe. My cousin had a chateau in the Loire Valley, so I went there, and for one summer, I was watching. After that, everywhere I’ve gone, L.A. or New York, I go and try to talk to the chef and try to get ideas. It’s fun. I love to cook—but that’s it, not answering the phone or getting orders or sending deliveries. Those things are getting too much for me.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect Fery’s Catering?
When COVID started, my daughter was so worried because of our age. She told us, ‘you have to close, you can’t go out of the house.’ For about two weeks, I did that. Then, I thought, I’m going to get depressed. I came here, and we locked the door, and I did orders by phone. We didn’t advertise to get more. There was no one here. It was just me and the shop. Maybe I was doing six or eight orders a day, but I was happy I was doing something. I’d spend the whole day here. I stayed open throughout COVID.
Now, I have these kids working for me, they’re in high school. They’re wonderful, but they haven’t done anything before, they don’t know anything. I always said, I’ll work until my body gives up. But now, after this COVID thing, I decided I think I’d like to retire.
What would happen to Fery’s Catering and Take-Out if you decide to retire?
I would love for someone who I know to come and take the business. We have two potential buyers. If not, I was going to turn it into a kitchen for the homeless, but one of my customers told me that there are so many of those, nobody stays hungry long. We’re not very desperate, because we own this place, so I might close it and just come sometimes to cook here.
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