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Influential Iranian Women: Fatemeh Tarighat Monfared (1952-)

January 26, 2024
5 min read
Fatemeh Tarighat Monfared runs one of the most successful and popular restaurants in Tehran
Fatemeh Tarighat Monfared runs one of the most successful and popular restaurants in Tehran
Each day Fatemeh Tarighat Monfared’s restaurant offers more than 60 types of food on its menu, made according to its own exclusive recipes
Each day Fatemeh Tarighat Monfared’s restaurant offers more than 60 types of food on its menu, made according to its own exclusive recipes

In the evenings of the holy month of Ramadan, just before Muslims start breaking their dawn-to-dusk fasting, a long line from the top of Tehran’s Takht-e Tavous Avenue towards Valiasr Street attracts the attention of every passerby. This scene, accompanied by a pleasing aroma of food, draws their eyes to the large sign of a restaurant where, as everybody in Tehran knows, you can find the best cuisine and make it a night to remember.

For decades now Hani Restaurant has been famous for its variety and quality of food, made according to its own exclusive recipes, whether for staples to break a day-long fast or for a normal day. There is always a long line for its salad bar and buffet, a line that extends into the elegant lobby of the ground floor, and sometimes into the street. Many families plan ahead to gather in this restaurant, to sit around its elegant tables and order dishes of Iranian cuisine such as kebab and all kinds of stews.

Anybody who enters Hani Restaurant has to pass by an office. The door to this office is always open and you can see the managers working and say hello to them. A tall woman with a powerful, self-confident and striking voice constantly goes from the office to the kitchen, from the kitchen to the till, from the till to the buffet and then to the dining hall, where she often joins the customers who are waiting in line. She is focused on providing the customers with the best service possible and they all know her: Fatemeh Tarighat Monfared, not only the manager but also the founder of the restaurant, the first female restaurant owner in Iran.

At the time when Monfared opened the restaurant no woman had succeeded in breaking into the monopoly of men over popular restaurants from Tehran’s bazaar to its affluent north. In addition she built this restaurant from under the ruins of her family’s finances.

A Wealthy but Conservative Family

Monfared was born in 1952 to a religious and relatively large family. Her father was in the family business and was the owner of Tarighat Restaurant that he had opened in 1939. Even though most men in the family were in this line of business, the women were not allowed to work outside their home, something that was seen as totally inappropriate for women to do. Girls in the family were not even allowed to study beyond elementary school, and they were expected to become wives and mothers afterwards.

Monfared did not want to marry early and was secretly studying seventh-grade lessons, but her resistance to marrying a man 17 years her senior was ignored and her father forced her to do so when she was 15. The marriage ended in divorce after 20 difficult years, during which she raised four boys and a girl.

In 1980 the luggage factory of Monfared’s husband Haj Akbar Kebritchi burned down and the family’s capital and credit went up in smoke. Despite strong opposition from her family Monfared decided to open a restaurant. She named it Hani, after her third son, and it did not take long for the restaurant to become one of the most popular and successful restaurants in the whole capital.

Monfared attributes her success to the priority that she gives to her work. “I must say that the main secret is that I have never dodged work,” she says. “Sometimes I have even given priority to my work over my family which, of course, is not right, but, well, what I do carries a heavy responsibility. Sometimes I even think it is not any less important than what a doctor does, because one mistake can have consequences that would be difficult to alleviate.”

Working as Hard as the Employees

Monfared is one of very few women restaurateurs in Iran, but most of her employees are men. She herself is the chef and she personally trains the cooks. She takes her work very seriously and constantly inspects the kitchen and the quality of the dishes. Monfared works at the restaurant as long as, and as hard as, her employees because, she says, she loves her work and her work ethic does not allow her to just sit behind a desk and let things take care of themselves. But, she says, the satisfaction of her restaurant’s customers gives her energy and takes away the fatigue.

As a child she said in an interview, “I loved to be rich but I did not like to ask my parents for money. So ever since childhood I thought about how I could get rich by myself. From my childish point of view, being rich was the path to power. I saw this sense of supremacy in the eyes of my father when he counted money to give to my mother. That is why I loved to work and have an income. During that time I tried to gather melon seeds, with the help of other members of my family and relatives such as my cousins, to dry them and then sell them at Nayeb ol-Saltaneh Mall which was near our home, or somehow managed to buy a lottery ticket and every week put my ear to the radio, hoping that I would win.

With hard work Monfared realised her childhood dream, but she succeeded even beyond that. Besides money she gained prestige and popularity and became a model of perseverance, determination and prudence for many women.

Each day Hani Restaurant has more than 60 types of food on its menu, including packaged foods for various occasions, from celebrations and weddings to mourning ceremonies.

The restaurant has opened branches in various parts of Tehran, but it has let everybody know that only the original one is under the management of Ms. Tarighat Monfared, who has received many honours as a job creator in the social service sector.




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