We spotted Kian Kazemi right away as we entered the newly-opened branch of his restaurant, Persia Grill, at the Sky Garden of SM North Edsa in Quezon City.
The Kapamilya host-actor greeted us warmly, "Kumusta po? Feel at home po."
Our tall, lean host himself, in his stylish formal outfit, looked very much at home in the classy ambiance of his resto. Indeed, Kian had invested wisely on interior design to achieve his vision of a "Modern Persian theme" —Moroccan lamps, imported vases, expensive ceiling drapes, and the comfy couch with bright-colored throw pillows.
"It's a place where you won't you be ashamed to bring your friends," said Kian when he finally had the time to sit for an interview with with PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal). "You know, if you are going on a first date, you wanna make an impression, parang di ba, maganda yung ambiance para mag-bond, plus, yung prices namin, hindi siya mahal."
HOW IT ALL BEGAN. Kian got his entrepreneurial spirit from his parents. His dad, who's 100 percent Iranian, and Filipina-Spanish mom are both "business-minded."
He related, "Lahat ng business, pinasukan nila. Dad ko, may Persian carpet; mom ko, binenta niya business niyang mga clothes retail, binenta niya na yung franchise. 'Tapos dati, may sinigang express kami. Basta, lahat na ng negosyo pinasukan na nila."
Persia Grill, according to Kian, is his concept. "Kasi, nag-aral ako ng HRIM (Hotel Restaurant and Institution Management). I studied in La Salle [Taft] and when I did OJT [on-the-job training] in Mandarin Hotel, sabi ko, 'I can't work for a boss, hindi ko kaya. I can't handle authority, lagi akong nasisisante...'"
That's why if you ask him where exactly he worked at Mandarin, he'd say, "Sisante department."
He elaborated, "I'm not good at authority, kasi pantay-pantay tayong tao, e, iba-iba lang yung trabaho, iba-iba yung careers. I respect the janitors, as I respect the artista for entertaining. I respect the janitor for cleaning, I respect the doctor...Kanya-kanya iyang trabaho pero pantay tayo, iba-iba lang yung ginagawa."
And so the 23-year-old La Salle alumnus set his sights on becoming his own boss.
He recalled, "College pa lang, I was [into] business na. I used to make sandwiches na kebab. Nagbebenta ako sa classmates ko, ha, hindi ako nahihiya. Sa La Salle, naka-amerikana kami, necktie, kasi yun ang uniform, e. Ako, yung bag ko, may mga pagkain, maaamoy na nila 'yan, 'O, Kian, ano bang meron ka ngayon?' Bibili na 'yan sila sa 'kin."
One day, he broached an idea to his parents, and the kebab sandwich turn into a kebab resto: Persia Grill.
PERSIA GRILL. Their first branch—situated in Valero, Salcedo Village, Makati—was only "60 square meters."
"Super liit," he described.
"Biglang after a year, sa sobrang successful nung business dahil napupuno siya, yung tao nagrereklamo sa liit, dahil ang liit. So, okay yung reklamo na yun, so sabi namin, para sa inyo, nung New Year nag-expand kami doble, times two. Parking lot yun, e, so nung pinalaki namin yun, yun na.