Pardis Stitt is living proof that success is sweetest when earned after years of hard work and dedication.
She and her husband Frank are co-owners and operators of four renowned Birmingham restaurants, including the 2018 James Beard Award winning Highlands Bar and Grill. The restaurant earned its first James Beard Foundation Award nomination for Outstanding Restaurant in 2009, which Stitt recalls as “thrilling and terrifying at the same time.”
“We felt a great responsibility to ourselves and our community and pushed even harder to provide an incredible experience for our guests. Nine nominations later, we won,” Stitt said.
Stitt’s hospitality, which has roots in her southern upbringing and Persian heritage, helps to set her restaurants apart. Her parents immigrated to the U.S in the late 1970s and she grew up in Birmingham’s community of Iranian families.
“Without her, the Highlands is not the Highlands,” Frank Stitt told The New York Times in 2013.
Upon winning the prestigious James Beard award, Pardis illustrated her humility by telling ABC 33/40, “It is just an honor for our staff, for our guests who come and see us night after night, week after week, month after month who have been supporting us and we’re just so happy to bring a medal home to Birmingham.”
Stitt reflects on the 2018 James Beard award as a nod to hard work and something that inspires her every day.
“Having our dedication to hospitality affirmed on a national level continues to motivate us,” she shared with Yellowhammer News.
In addition to Highlands Bar and Grill, the Stitts own Bottega Restaurant, Bottega Cafe and Chez Fon Fon. The Stitt restaurants are truly icons in Birmingham’s Southside community and have become some of the country’s most sought after dining destinations. While the food is exceptional, guests know the Stitt restaurants for their exceptional service and unique dining room experiences. Pardis focuses on the front-of-house operations and makes all guests feel welcome.
“We want this to be a respite for our guests,” Pardis explained. “No matter what’s happened outside these walls, you may have had a difficult day at work. You may have had a disagreement with your significant other. But when you walk through our doors, we want this to be a place of beauty and of rest and peace. So, if we can create a little happiness in someone’s day, that’s really what we strive for.”
When not entertaining guests at her restaurants, Stitt enjoys gardening with her husband Frank at their farm about forty miles outside of Birmingham. She stays extremely active in the community serving as board member of the Pepper Place Farmers Market. She is a founding member of the Birmingham chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and a former board member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. She also remains active in the SFA and is passionate about their mission to document and celebrate the diverse food cultures of the American South.
Stitt enjoys volunteering for Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF), a community based, nonprofit teaching farm in the heart of downtown Birmingham.
“Jones Valley Teaching Farm is important to me. I’ve watched the evolution of this organization from its early years as an urban farm to the teaching farm it is today, providing transformative lessons for thousands of students in the Birmingham City School system each year. A new challenge this year is the Ready to Grow Campaign, which will allow a permanent structure to be built on the downtown farm, providing even more opportunities for students to be positively impacted. I’m proud to serve as co-chair for this exciting campaign,” she shared with Yellowhammer News.
Amanda Storey, executive director of JVTF, said about her, “Pardis has been a thoughtful champion of our work at Jones Valley Teaching Farm since its inception. Not only is she one of our loyal customers at Pepper Place Farmers Market every Saturday, she also lends her talents, expertise, and passion for our food-based education program, Good School Food. She has believed in and contributed to our work in so many amazing ways. Pardis Stitt is a volunteer who is always willing to go the extra mile and to do the hard work. Pardis and Frank are Birmingham’s culinary leaders and Jones Valley Teaching Farm would not be who we are today without their vision for what our community could be with food as the foundation.”
Stitt values challenging herself and mentoring others, counting them as some of the most significant aspects of her success. “I believe valuable traits of successful women are always showing-up prepared; being respectful of others; showing compassion; and challenging yourself every day. It’s also important to find a mentor, as well as being a mentor,” she shared with Yellowhammer News.
When reflecting on what she wishes to leave as a legacy for future generations, Stitt shared the following inspirational words: “Surround yourself with the best and the brightest—they will inspire you. Don’t take yourself too seriously and have a sense of humor. Observe and listen and embrace conflict and change. I’ve also learned it is okay to show my vulnerabilities, as it provides an opportunity for others to relate and allows us to search for solutions together.”
Yellowhammer News is proud to name Pardis Stitt a 2019 Woman of Impact.
The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.
Erin Brown Hollis covers faith and culture for Yellowhammer News. She is an author and host of the “Cheers to That!” podcast. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @erinbrownhollis.