As a child, Mahfam Moeeni-Alarcon could always be found in the kitchen helping her mother and father cook. By age seven, she was making full breakfasts for her family.
Though she kept this love in her heart, she decided to major in chemistry in college with the hope of becoming a pharmacist. Longing for her days back in the kitchen, she took up work at a local coffee shop where she overheard two customers talking about culinary school.
“I never realized that culinary school was even an option at that point, but I thought to myself, ‘I would love to do that,’” she recalls. “I was a junior in college when I decided to switch my major to business and attend the Arizona Culinary Institute after graduation.”
During her education, Moeeni-Alarcon took up an internship at the Arizona Biltmore where she worked in the catering department. Yearning for more, Moeeni-Alarcon spent the next few years working in every aspect of the restaurant and hospitality industry.
“I was a server, a bartender, did catering, in management – everything. I wanted to understand each role so I could understand how each played a part in the business,” she said.
Looking to branch out, Moeeni-Alarcon accepted a coveted position as a wine buyer at Whole Foods.
“I would purchase the wine, but also do the chef pairings with wine and beer. I learned a lot about cheese too,” she said.
While she loved her role, Moeeni-Alarcon said the urge to create her own business where she could cook her dishes was getting stronger. Back in college, she was known for her marinated olives and artisanal items which she sold to local vendors and bars. This entrepreneurial spirit took over and Moeeni-Alarcon officially opened her own catering business.
Her venture was so successful that she quickly needed a commercial space to work from. With husband, Cristobal , by her side, Mingle + Graze in Downtown Chandler was born.
“We are a cheese bar and kitchen offering charcuterie boards, meats, cheeses, olives and entrees with a Persian and Chilean twist as a nod to our culture,” she explained. “We want to be welcoming to most diets, so we offer vegan and vegetarian options as well.”
The duo has already become engrained in the community around them. Mingle + Graze features breads and produce from other vendors they met at the Downtown Chandler Farmers Market. Additionally, Moeeni-Alarcon says they pay close attention to their carbon footprint by recycling and composting to reduce waste.
Ultimately though, Mingle + Gaze aims to bring the community together.
“Food brings people together. it’s familiar to them,” said Moeeni-Alarcon. “We aim to provide people with great ingredients and excellent customer service. We even decided to be a BYOB (bring your own bottle) restaurant because we want everyone to feel at home. They can bring their favorite wine or beer or purchase a growler from San Tan or Murphy’s Law.”
As for their location in Downtown Chandler, she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I feel really lucky to be in Downtown Chandler. The universe brought us here,” she said. “All of the business have been extremely supported. It’s a family I didn’t think I would have.”
Mingle + Graze offers dine-in service as well as catering. Follow them on Facebook or give them a call at (480)726-2264.