After falling in love with cooking at a young age, Lebanese-Armenian celebrity chef Zarmig Halladjian channeled her passion for gastronomy into a full-fledged international career and went on to become a devoted ambassador for her homeland’s cuisine in the region.
Chef Zarmig spoke to HOME about her personal and professional journey, sharing genuine stories about her childhood, beginnings, evolution, culinary philosophy and numerous successes that have established her as one of the most prominent names in the business.
Before going on to become the acclaimed chef and the food and hospitality consultant expert she currently is, Chef Zarmig grew up in a conservative family. And when it was time for her to choose a career path, she did not hesitate to follow her heart. “I came to realize that you can do anything if you really put your mind into it and I went on to earn my diploma and master’s degree before getting the chance to hone my skills and put my culinary expertise to test at some of the most prestigious 5-star hotels in the region,” she noted.
By taking the decision to venture into a profession largely dominated by men, the determined chef took it upon herself to challenge the stereotype and prove herself as one of the best names in the business. “Working in a male-dominated environment felt like a struggle to me at first but I was able to overcome it through hard work and perseverance and built a stronger character along the way,” she explained.
UNITY THROUGH FOOD
Amidst all the struggles that the world is facing today, Chef Zarmig views food as the only common factor that truly unites people, regardless of their age, profile or cultural background. “Food is the best thing to bring people closer to each other as they gather around a wide variety of dishes, happily sharing flavors and stories. It is a true gift from God. It just gives me tremendous pleasure to see a group of people enjoying a meal together,” she noted.
Chef Zarmig experienced this unity when she established her own Armenian-Lebanese restaurant under the name “Mamig” (Armenian for grandma) a few years ago at the Katara cultural village in Doha, the city’s one-off cultural beacon where art meets high end cuisine. “We currently have a total of 165 employees from various nationalities including Lebanese, Syrian and Armenian. We all make one big family, working hand in hand under a ‘one team, one goal’ strategy to drive concrete results and introduce people to the unique taste of our traditional cuisine,” she explained.
After scouring different Armenian regions and meeting with older people to gain firsthand insights about traditional Armenian dishes, the chef was able to fuse the knowledge she had gained with her existing Lebanese food heritage to develop the concept behind “Mamig” which became the first restaurant in Doha to earn ISO certification and has partnered with one of the largest diabetes treatment centers in the area to provide patients with a healthy selection of meals.
BACK TO THE ROOTS
Chef Zarmig has been living abroad for almost 14 years, yet her heart will always belong to Lebanon, her beloved HOME country. “I love Qatar, it is a truly warm, peaceful and stress-free environment that has allowed me to grow and achieve my goals while being surrounded by respectful and kind people, yet Lebanon is where my heart is and will forever remain, I wish I could’ve stayed here,” she told HOME Magazine.
“Despite my perpetually charged work schedule I always find the time to drop by Lebanon every month, even if I can only stay for a day or two,” she added.
And by staying true to her bi-national heritage, Chef Zarmig was able to share her culinary expertise with people around the world, earning international recognition for her work and a number of awards along the way including 'Queen of Armenian Cuisine'. She has also authored a total of 24 cookbooks and hosted numerous cooking shows on a number of TV channels including LBC, MBC and Al Jadeed during the 14-year span of her successful television career.
Today, Chef Zarmig strives to inspire people through her craft and reflect a culturally refined image of her homeland. “I do not treat my restaurant like a lucrative business, I mostly aim for it to be a creative journey into the traditions, richness and diversity of my Lebanese-Armenian heritage that can inspire and empower people to be open to other cultures and achieve their dreams,” she concluded.
"Qatar, it is a truly warm, peaceful and stress-free environment yet Lebanon is where my heart is and will forever remain"
ARMENIAN SALAD WITH SALMON
- 4 tomatoes
- 4 onions
- 4 cucumbers
- 1 bunch parsley
- Cooked Fillet Salmon
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- A Few sprigs of dried mint
- Cumin, salt and red
- Armenian pepper
Chop the parsley thinly. Cut the tomatoes, onions and cucumbers into small cubes. Prepare the sauce by mixing the olive oil, lemon juice, dried mint, cumin, salt and red Armenia pepper. Flake the cooked salmon fillet between the mixtures.
Mix all together and present it. Decorate with salmon fillet on top.
AVELUK WITH CALAMARI
- 500g Aveluk (horse sorrel) or mouloukhieh
- 200g Calamari
- 100g Walnut
- 1 Onion
- 2 Garlic cloves
- Vegetable oil
- Salt And pepper to taste
In a frying pan, brown the onions in oil. Add the crushed garlic cloves.
Add the aveluk (horse sorrel) and cook for 5 minutes. Cook the calamari until it gets tendered.
Remove the aveluk from heat and add the walnuts, salt and pepper.
Decorate the top with pomegranate, fried garlic and more calamari when serving.