Chef’s Night Spirit Spills Over

Fate often works in strange ways.

Both events met at the crossroads of our Armenian Heritage Park, which maintains a silent but sound vigil at Rose Kennedy Greenway. (Photo: Rupen Janbazian)
‘Both events met at the crossroads of our Armenian Heritage Park, which maintains a silent but sound vigil at Rose Kennedy Greenway.’ (Photo: Rupen Janbazian)

One night, I find myself hobnobbing with a crowd of 300 at a hotel, delirious from Boston traffic. The next afternoon, here I am, sitting quietly by a genocide memorial, counting my blessings with the birds.

Both events met at the crossroads of our Armenian Heritage Park, which maintains a silent but sound vigil at Rose Kennedy Greenway.

First, the Chef’s Night: It never ceases to amaze me how chef guru Jimmy Kalustian and company manage to attract such a crowd of revelers on a weekday night in the heart of our metropolis.

They arrived here from near and far, coughing up a tidy admission charge to sample the foods of ten renowned chefs, along with desserts, fancy coffees and teas.

With the talented John Baboian Trio supplying the eclectic background music, guests went from table to table, sampling the fare and relishing each other’s company.

Of course, the food and drink were an elaborate way of tending to matters at hand—the perpetuity of our genocide monument for which we can showcase proudly as Armenians.

Through such generosity, I, for one, will applaud the $220,000 that was raised this evening to support the park’s ongoing care and maintenance.

Everything in the house was on the house, except the cash bar which followed a complimentary wine greeting. Fastachi with Susan and Souren Etyemezian provided bags of gourmet nuts as take-home favors, while James Tufenkian and Harvest Song offered up its unique jellies.

And so it went through the night, marked by a short program with remarks from Kalustian and Sheriff Peter Koutoujian with their thoughtful introductions. One nice touch was the recognition of each chef there. Each walked away with an appreciation award from the committee.

Please bear with me while I mention some of these benefactors. They’ve done this before and probably will be counted upon again to give of themselves and their businesses—without them this success would not have been evident.

Presenting their signature dishes were: Alex Crabbe and Carol “Shish” Parsigian, Asta; Brian Dandro, Royal Sonesta; Brian Poe, Bukowski Tavern; Ed Robinson, Nubar; Jeffrey Fournier, 51 Lincoln; Leo Romero, Casa Romero; Mike Amiralian, 80 Thoreau; Seta Dakessian, Seta’s Café; Steve DiFillippo, Davio’s Vicki Lee Boyajian, Vicki Lee’s, joined by Pedja Kostic, Iggy’s Breads of the World; pastry chef Nathan Kibarian, Bastille Kitchen; and Joanna Chang, Flour Bakery and Café.

Edward Tutunjian served up the wine from his very own Tutunjian Estate Vineyards. Coffee and tea were provided by Gilbert and Alvin Tsang.

The Royal Sonesta Hotel laid out the red carpet and served as a gracious host in every way. The very next day found us in a different setting but very much connected.

I was scheduled for a chemo treatment at Dana-Farber for my cancer and was accompanied by my wife Nancy and daughter Sonya. Unbeknownst to me, with Sonya’s connections to Northeastern University from where she graduated, Sonya had orchestrated a surprise visit with Ex-Governor Michael Dukakis, who teaches classes there.

I would be sitting in the infusion room and he would pop in just like that. It was all pre-arranged with the oncology staff—but never happened. My doctor decided the last moment to forego the treatment this week due to a sudden drop in my white blood cells.

So, no chemo, no Dukakis, no story. No doubt, if the governor had paid me a visit in my idled state with IV being pumped into my system, I would have interviewed him about his recent visit to Armenia. I heard it went quite well as he met with President Serge Sarkisian and was honored with his wife Kitty for his support of the Armenian Genocide recognition.

Since we had the whole day before us, Sonya suggested a visit to Heritage Park. She had never seen the memorial. We could bring some sandwiches along and enjoy an afternoon in the park.

The monument was everything it was built up to be in her eyes. As I sat there in deep thought, watching the birds flutter about the water, it was just the tranquility I needed after a rather disappointing morning.

I saw an Asian family walking the labyrinth with their toddler son. In and out of the transfigured course this youngster rambled, delighted by the challenge.

When it came time for a family photo, we handed the camera over to a pedestrian. And then it happened. My wife went back a little too far and met up with the fountain, getting her backside soaked in the process.

It was just the right levity I needed in my dour moment to pose a much-needed laugh.


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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