Taste Of Persia had long been nestled inside of Pizza Paradise, a nondescript joint in the Flatiron district, where for eight years, owner Saeed Pourkay served traditional Persian food to a loyal and consistent customer base. It was there that Pourkay gained a reputation as one of the best authentic Persian chefs in the city. After the pizza shop was taken over by new owners in the winter, however, he was informed that he would need to vacate the space. Then after moving out, Pourkay discovered that the new owners had opened a copycat business called "Tasty Persia" using his own recipes.

In February, Pourkay was able to raise over $70K from a GoFundMe campaign, which he planned to put immediately toward reopening the restaurant in its own space. He had begun looking at places in March when coronavirus hit, something which has made Pourkay reevaluate what happened to him over the winter.

He was close to signing a lease on an existing restaurant space on Ninth Avenue between 18th and 19th streets, close to his old location, when the pandemic hit. "They had all the equipment almost ready to operate, and I was going to sign the contract, when the virus came and everything started closing down" he said.

"Just imagine at this time if I [had opened] the business then, I would be in a very, very, very bad shape by now," he said. "So I think God loves me because no matter what, this coronavirus would have come and I would have had to close."

While he tried to figure out his next move, Pourkay decided to start cooking again at his home near Paterson, New Jersey. He started putting a weekly menu on his Instagram page and taking online orders. It is a scary, uncertain time for everyone in the restaurant industry, but Pourkay has found himself unexpectedly doing more business than ever over the last month. By the start of May, he told Gothamist he was up to over 160 orders a week; if he puts the new menu up on a Monday, he has to stop taking orders about a day later.

For the first month, everything was made out of Pourkay's own home because of his fears of renting a commercial kitchen and not knowing who had touched the equipment or used the space previously. Now, with demand so high, he's begun cooking out of a fellow chef's restaurant on the Upper East Side; he gets to use the kitchen from about 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. on certain weekdays.

He shops for vegetables and meat at local Middle Eastern markets, then gets help from two former staffers to prepare everything: "They come with gloves and mask and they cook here. And then Thursday, Friday, Saturday we deliver around the town." By the end of March, he was fully up and running, hiring four people to help deliver his famed soups and stews all across the city and New Jersey every weekend.

Each week, he typically makes three dishes. He's been sticking to a lot of slow-cooked stews, along with a couple of traditional dishes. You'll find dishes like Abgoosht, a lamb soup; Ghormeh Sabzi, a stew with sautéed herbs, angus beef, and saffron rice; Fesenjan, a stew with chicken, pomegranate, and walnuts; Kalam Polo ba Goosht, a rice dish with cabbage, angus beef, and salad shirazi; Khoresht Karafs, a dish with celery, artichoke, and beef; and more.

"It is a lot of work, but I can't say no to my customers, and they are very, very, very happy that I'm cooking for them," he said with pride. The minimum order is $50, but Pourkay says every portion is plentiful: "All of a sudden if you order three of the dishes, you'll have food for the entire week and you can live with it, without cooking."

And things may even come full circle when it becomes safe to reopen a sitdown restaurant again: the landlord of Pizza Paradise called him recently to tell him that the new owners, who took over less than a year ago, were shutting down because of unpaid bills. "He said, 'I just want to congratulate you. These guys went out of business.'"

So Pourkay is now in talks with the landlord to potentially takeover the entire Pizza Paradise space for Taste of Persia. "The guy says, 'I want you to go back to your 18th Street space. And I'm sorry for what I did to you to kick you out, but this is the time that we sit down and talk.'"

Pourkay doesn't want to get too ahead of himself, considering the continued uncertainty around the virus and how long restrictions may be in place in NYC, but he is excited at the prospect of returning to his former shop. As he put it, "it would be awesome." The whole turn of events since losing the spot, and the outpouring of generosity from people, has made a deep impact on him: "It's amazing. I wanted to keep myself busy, and somehow, I have a lot of people that I deliver food to their homes and that they enjoy."