Armenian Catering

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For decades, the diet for Armenian immigrants in Los Angeles consisted of the hospitable general store where they skewered various types of kebabs, charred lahmadjoon in a brick oven or sliced ​​shawarma on pita breads, sumac and roasted garlic leaking into the air and from the vertical rotisserie to the sidewalks flowed.

Armenian Catering

Armenian Catering

When a genocide and political unrest drove millions of Armenians from their homeland, their culinary heritage encountered influences from the Middle East and other countries where they sought refuge. They brought these traditions – some ancient, some more recent – ​​all the way to the United States, where food became one of the most important and defining facets of the community. As the Armenian community in Los Angeles grew into one of the largest outside of Armenia, it became increasingly difficult to discern Armenian food as a whole.

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Crista Marie Ani Aladjadjian, founder of Mezze Spices, an ethically sourced spice collection that pays tribute to her Syrian-Armenian heritage, says: “For me, Armenian food is a foundation of certain flavors, and building on that, a kind of seamless fusion with other cultures that were so hospitable to us as a people. In return, we have preserved and preserved their culinary heritage through our cooking.”

Over the past decade, a new generation of Armenian chefs and restaurateurs has emerged, eager to break boundaries and expand the story of the cuisine by introducing new flavors and spices. Take Ara Zada, chef and co-author of “Lavash,” a cookbook that explores the flatbread so important to Armenian cuisine. Zada and comedian Jack Assadourian Jr. went viral earlier this year when the pair began releasing cooking classes for unique Armenian Mexican dishes, including a “lahmarito,” or burrito with rounds of lahmajune, seasoned basturma meat, hummus and traditional carne asada fillings. Mexican rice, pico de gallo and salsa, all wrapped in lavash.

“If we stick to traditional food and don’t get used to what’s trendy, I think our food will be wasted,” says Mary Keledjian, the supervising culinary producer of “MasterChef.” “There is a special place in keeping traditions alive and cooking something exactly the way it should be. And there is another spectrum of mixing Armenian food with different styles. It is the way forward.”

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As sons and daughters of first- and second-generation Armenian immigrants entered the culinary world, they kept in mind the flavors their parents cherished while embracing all the diversity a city like L.A. has to offer. The chefs and restaurants featured here serve as pioneers in the transformation of Armenian immigrant cuisine, drawing influence from California seasonality, local food cultures and more.

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Dero Shahnazarian has always had a passion for Latin American and Mexican cuisine. After 17 years in fine dining (Ink with Michael Voltaggio, Red O, Cleo and Bourbon Steak House), he finally opened his dream restaurant with Cocina Cilantro in Glendale, cooking up his version of fast-casual food. Shahnazarian considers cilantro to be one of the most important ingredients in Mexican cuisine, and different shades of the green herb can be found in the wall decor, furniture and even on the welcome sign. Soy chorizo ​​tacos with sweet potato fritters, caramelized onion, crema, cotija cheese and of course cilantro are one of the signature dishes at Shahnazarian’s restaurant.

Armen Piskoulian (Michael’s Santa Monica, Tasting Kitchen) opened his sandwich shop on Melrose Avenue in the middle of the pandemic. With just a few outdoor tables and a few more indoors, plus an L-shaped counter, Oui focuses mainly on takeout and delivery. Everything here is made from scratch – including the sesame seed roll that envelops the ribeye cheesesteak with sweet onions and mushrooms, and the fried cod sandwich topped with pickles and tartar sauce, which provides the right amount of acidity. Piskoulian has a special recipe for khachapuri, a doughy oval disk filled with cheese and eggs, traditional Georgian and very popular in Armenian cuisine.

Linda Grace opened her second restaurant in early 2023, as a tribute to her grandfather Mesrob, a genocide survivor who ran a café called Piccadilly in Baghdad for more than 40 years. With the help of Chef Emilio Ortiz, she serves pastries, breakfast sandwiches and traditional Middle Eastern dishes such as chicken kebab marinated in Lebanese red pepper and served on a bed of rice with roasted garlic, onions and grilled vegetables, all marinated in herbs and olives . oil that gives it that special Californian twist. Grace recently acquired her third restaurant, Fiore Cafe in South Pasadena.

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Armenian Catering

With Rouge, Kevin and Haik Zadoyan transformed a 15-year-old hookah lounge into a luxury dining destination in Studio City. With a fully retractable roof, vibrant plant decor and woven wicker details, the restaurant offers a relaxing atmosphere inspired by the lush jungle oasis of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It is distinguished by an extensive selection of Armenian wines imported directly from Armenia, plus popular dishes that use local products. Beets by Dro is inspired by a beet salad that chef Dro Dergevorgian’s grandmother used to make, with passion fruit, avocado, pomegranate and pistachio. The chef’s culinary resume includes working closely with Chef Paul Shoemaker as sous chef at Firefly, as well as a stint at Fishing With Dynamite in Manhattan Beach. The charred octopus draped over corn and cotija cheese and studded with vibrant circles of ninja radish is another menu highlight. Pastry chef Gabrielle Gabelian (Son of a Gun, Petit Trois) pays tribute to her heritage with Persian Love Story, a dessert that adds pistachio cream and rose meringue to a cardamom tart.

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At this charming marketplace restaurant, the shelves are stocked with products imported from Armenia or locally produced, such as balsamic vinegar, a variety of chutneys, preserves, pasta and wine. In front of the restaurant, owner Linda Grace serves sandwiches, soups and snacks inspired by her Armenian heritage. Grace uses her grandmother’s recipe for red lentil soup, as well as the rice-stuffed grape leaves and hummus found on a variety of sandwiches, but puts her own spin on the Bodega Breakfast burrito and Marketplace panini, spread with house-made garlic-lemon aioli. San Marino Cafe and Marketplace hosts monthly wine tastings featuring local and international wines presented by the local sommelier.

Ice cream on bread was an everyday snack for Claudine Thomassians and her sister growing up in Oregon. When Thomassians moved to LA, she decided to share her culinary habit with others and in December 2021, she opened Toasted Cafe in historic Old Town Montrose. The cozy cafe attracts grandparents for their morning coffee and students and others who just want to curl up on the couches and chairs in the bay window. Thick, toasted milk bread towers are filled with ice cream, cookies, marshmallows, saffron, fruit and rose petals; they will satisfy even the pickiest appetite. A goat cheese and fig sandwich, carefully balanced with eggs and spinach, along with a zaatar sandwich with avocado, feta and tomato, serve as a vehicle for Thomassians to share her favorite flavors with customers.

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The daughter of Armenian immigrants, Ani Davtyan grew up in her grandmother Verto’s kitchen, which served as a casual restaurant for her siblings, friends and relatives. In 2018, the family decided to turn it into a catering company, serving traditional Armenian small snacks and pastries. During the pandemic, the company took a forced hiatus, which gave Davtyan a lot of time to experiment with different donut recipes at home. One of her friends posted about it on social media, starting a new journey in 2020 to become Verto’s Kitchen. The interior is sleek and modern, with pastel-colored lounge chairs, footstools and plants. The patio, covered with turquoise tiles and cherry blossom flowers, evokes a European atmosphere. Davtyan’s skills are reflected in artful and brightly colored baked donuts made from natural fruit flavors. Her favorite ingredient is matcha, which she uses not only in popular donuts such as rose, pistachio and chocolate, but also in 10 different drinks. Verto’s also offers several types of baklavas and walnut rolls made by Davtyan’s grandmother.

Chef David Movsisian’s intimate, C-shaped sushi bar allows guests to watch as he traditionally prepares hand rolls with shrimp tempura or yellowtail, spicy sauce and crispy onions wrapped in seasoned Korean seaweed, keeping the hand rolls crispy. The sushi bar offers four types of Japanese tea, brewed in tetsubin kettles and served in cylindrical yunomi cups made for everyday tea drinking. Movsisian honed his skills working under Chef Katsuya Uechi for twelve years before opening his own restaurant with his cousin Karren Antonyan. A second Yunomi location will open in Culver City this summer.

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Armenian Catering

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