January 20, 2018

More About Chef Varouj

By the time I was 15, I knew I wanted to become a professional chef! There was no doubt about it!

Humble beginnings…

Growing up in an Armenian household, everything revolved around great food, family and friends. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with food and the need to always be surrounded by friends and family.

no preservatives, additivesBut for me it was more. It was a passion that grew stronger as I grew older. I became more critical and I expected more than just a meal.

I always wanted to experiment in the kitchen and try new things. I have vivid memories of being kicked out of mom’s kitchen! I must have driven her nuts!! So I would wait for the opportunity, when no one would be home, to start experimenting with cake recipes. (This was before I was even tall enough to see into the bowl without standing on a chair. ) Of course I would make a big mess, and later get yelled at, but that never stopped me!

Professional career…

By the time I was 15, I knew I wanted to become a professional chef! There was no doubt about it! It took a few months to convince my family, and with a little help from my older brother, I was ready to start my cooking career. In 1992, I was on my way to Italy. What a life changing experience it would be!

I had some of the most amazing times of my life at the culinary academy in Abano-Terme, near Padua. Four years of amazing learning experience and hands on training by fantastic chef- instructors at the school gave me the foundation, skills and confidence I now share with those who enjoy the food I now create. Add to that, the experience of working in various restaurants and hotels during the evenings, weekends and summers, meshed the “schooling” with the “real world” all at the same time. I could not have asked for more!!!!

Life in America…

As a young child from a modest home in Syria, the United States sounded so far away and unreachable. But I wanted to try my hand at the “American Dream”, a better life. I received my culinary education and was ready to use my knowledge. In 1995, armed with a plane ticket and little more than a hundred dollars to my name, I was off to San Francisco to the welcoming arms of my uncle and his family. It was hard to believe that I was really in the United States. And all the English classes I took did not prepare me for America.

Needless to say, it was starting life all over again: new country, new rules, new language, and making new friends. I had to learn the “American” way of doing things. Being a Syrian national wasn’t much help either. Regardless, I had promised myself to make everyday a learning day, and I was going to make it happen!

Professional background…

As a child I looked up and admired two individuals: my late father and my oldest brother. Both had big hearts, were great at their professions and were always ready to help others. They instilled 4 rules in me:

  1. To be honest.
  2. Become the best at what you do.
  3. Don’t be afraid to work hard.
  4. Do things right or don’t bother to do them altogether.

To this day, those are my beliefs.

Even though I have worked with some great chefs, there are many others I would have loved to work with and learn from. Even now! But, life does not always turn out how we imagined it. This was no different for me. The route I chose was hard work and I taught myself along the way. I had to make the best of the options I had at the time. So, with what I have learned, along with my thirst and commitment, my entrepreneurial mindset, coupled with encouragement and support from my uncle, I took the self employment route early on. Since then, I have operated bakeries, restaurants and catering businesses, (some were more successful than others). The knowledge I have gained is priceless. What a great experience it has been!