“We decided to go back to our roots during this time of reflection,” says the husband and wife team at Seattle’s Tarsan i Jane. They’re referring to the mandatory closing of restaurants, as a result of the pandemic.
“We were doing really well in March. The restaurant was busy,” explains Alia Zaine, who runs the front of house (she’s also a certified butcher). “We thought we would be able to shut down for a few weeks, then go back to normal with our tasting menus, but we realized very quickly that wasn’t going to happen. We needed to do something that made sense in these times.”
To honor their roots, the couple landed on paella kits to go. Chef Perfecte Rocher hails from a very small village in Valencia, otherwise known as the birthplace of paella. “I come from a family of paella,” says Rocher. “Maybe if I go back to my village, they will kill me for doing it this way,” he jokes. “You change one ingredient and people don’t eat it.”
Rocher wanted to honor traditional ingredients—it’s the way of cooking that had to change. Paella is typically cooked over an open flame for upwards of two and a half hours as the flavors develop. But in order to provide guests in Seattle an easy and practical way of enjoying this Spanish staple, Rocher knew he had to bend the rules. Enter the Tarsan i Jane Foolproof Paella Kit.
One kit includes broth, seasoned rice, vegetables, and an option of sustainable calamari or acorn-fed Iberian pork from Spain. It takes 7-9 minutes to cook at home. No open flame required. “We hope anyone can make it,” says Zaine. “You don’t have to cut anything or sautée in stages. We’ve done it all for you. All you do is add water.”
It’s important to Rocher for people to know the culture of paella, but ultimately, he says, “spending time with loved ones is the most important thing.” The couple has an infant daughter, Zayna, whom they lovingly refer to as their world.
Sustainable sourcing is another element that’s important to the couple. “I would prefer to eat what is ethically right as opposed to what is just delicious,” says Zaine. “We work with a lot of really small farms and producers. We put a lot of effort into finding the right ingredients so we’re proud of what we serve.”
So, what’s next for Tarsan i Jane? “We don’t know what’s going to happen in the fall,” says Rocher. Like many restaurants, the level of uncertainty is daunting, though neither Rocher nor Zaine dwells on this. Instead, they focus their energy on what they can do right now and how they can learn to move forward.
“The best thing for us is focusing on what’s most important. Friends and family. Quality time. Let’s reassess what we value and focus our future endeavors around this.”