Family photos show Porter Koury's cousins, wearing a hair net, holding up grape leaves in their grandmother Marie Koury’s kitchen.
The scene shows clearly how a great love of cooking was born, and helped lay the foundation of a beloved restaurant in Cody called Sitti’s Table.
Sitti, it happens, is the Lebanese word for grandmother, and it is a salute to Porter’s grandmother Marie.
Sitti’s Table opened last May in Cody and quickly became a community favorite.
More recently, however, it’s become a favorite of someone famous. Guy Fieri has announced that Sitti’s Table will be featured on his hit Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” at 9 or 10 p.m. Friday, depending on the cable provider.
Porter Koury was ecstatic to learn that the restaurant that pays homage to her grandmother is going to be featured on Fieri’s show, not least because it happens to be a show Marie really likes.
What people will see on the episode are two of the restaurant’s most popular menu items — the Italian sandwich and the lamb kofta man’oushe.
Care And Intensity Make The Difference
Fieri is known as a guy with discriminating food tastes. Not that he’s a food snob, but he does have his standards.
But with Sitti’s Table, he broke one of his own rules of thumb. That’s because he decided to feature the restaurant’s Italian sandwich.
It’s one of the restaurant’s most popular menu items. The bread is homemade, the Calabrian honey is homemade and the giardiniera is homemade. All well and good.
But there’s one thing that almost nixed the sandwich for Fieri. The meat isn’t cured by Sitti’s Table.
“Guy told us, ‘I would never usually choose a sandwich that someone doesn’t cure their own meat for it,’” Porter told Cowboy State Daily.
But that opinion changed when he read through the detailed list of ingredients.
“He was like, ‘When I read your recipes and just how thorough and how exact everything was, how you made all of your own things for the sandwich,’ that just kind of prompted him (to change his mind),” Porter said. “And then he was like, ‘This is mind-blowing. It’ll do really well.’ And it has been one of our most popular menu items.”
Porter and her husband Scott take the same level of care with the lamb kofta man’oushe that will also be featured on the show.
Man’oushe is a flatbread rather than a pita. The menu item features a homemade green tomato relish, and the meatballs are homemade in the store.
“My husband cooks the whole spices and we break them down,” Porter said. “The second dish is very opposite of, you know, the Italian. And those are the two he featured, (which are,) in reality, two of our most popular dishes.”
Fieri’s visit is not the first time Sitti’s has basked in a little bit of celebrity limelight.
“Saturday Night Live” alum Will Ferrell visited the restaurant last summer during a trip to Yellowstone National Park.
Damon Dash as well, a record executive who has a home in Wapiti, is a repeat customer, Porter said.
The Laughing Pig, which is Scott and Porter’s catering business, was also tapped to prepare meals for Kanye West and his entourage when the celebrity lived in Cody.
A Dream Come True
Of course, it’s not every day that the Mayor of Flavortown himself comes to town to try the food at your restaurant.
And it’s a definite highlight for Sitti’s Table. But the real treat for Porter was the fact her 97-year-old grandmother Marie, after whom the restaurant is named, got to come and see Porter and Scott’s business in person.
“I never thought she would get to come out and see the store,” Porter said. “I mean, even for as healthy as she is, that’s quite a lot of travel. So for me, it was just a dream come true to have her get to see it.”
Porter’s father and aunt also came for the occasion, along with Porter’s cousins.
“It was just so special to have everyone come out at one time,” Porter said. “It was a treat, you know. Being on the show was really cool, but having them all out here, that was a dream come true.”
Marie has long had a deep love of cooking and of bringing people together around a table to share food, Porter added.
“She’s written, like, nine Middle Eastern cookbooks, and it’s always 100% of the proceeds go, you know, to different nonprofits,” Porter said. “She’s done cooking classes and she’s kind of a little food celebrity in her town and just very involved in the community.”
She’s also quite witty and has a commanding presence.
“So she signed one of her cookbooks for him,” Porter said.
Another Rule Broken
Here is where Fieri broke another of his unwritten rules of thumb while he was at Sitti’s Table. When Guy saw that Marie was about to leave because she didn’t want to be in the way of filming, he stopped everything.
“He asked her not to leave, and he stopped the filming that was going on in the kitchen and sat down and interviewed her for like 30 minutes,” Porter said. “Which they said, in all of his seasons, he’s never done that impromptu.”
The conversation was a lively one, with everyone including Fieri laughing and enjoying the conversation as they swapped recipes and told stories from their kitchens.
“My grandmother spent a lot of her childhood in Mobile, Alabama, and she’s Lebanese as well, but she was raised in Mobile,” Porter said. “Fieri’s grandparents are from Georgia, so they just had that connection with the South and Southern cooking and they really, like, bonded over that.”
The other thing that they clearly had in common, Porter said, is a love of food and brining people together.
“I’m really excited to see how that turns out,” Porter said.
She’s Always An Inspiration
Porter and her husband often go to North Carolina to visit Marie. The trip often brings new inspirations for their restaurant and catering business.
“The last time I was there, she made like a pear jam from pears from her trees,” Porter said. “And she just started doing like a Za’atar cracker. We were like, ‘Gosh, these crackers are amazing. This would be a fun thing to do instead of chips and guacamole as a starter.’”
The crackers would go with a bit of Labneh, which is a Middle Eastern style of Greek yogurt, and jam.
“So yeah, even as we go back now, or when she’s out here, you’re just always growing and learning from each other,” Porter said. “And as a kid, you don’t kind of really appreciate what’s happening around you. But as an adult, working in the food business, I call her regularly. I’m like, ‘I’m making this, how did you do it?’”
Marie always has time for Porter, to talk her through a recipe, and Porter does have all nine of Marie’s cookbooks on hand. She received them as a wedding gift.
“Sometimes when I call, she’ll say, 'Look in this cookbook,'” Porter said. “She knows which recipe book it’s in, which is always fun.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.