Strength, Service and Sustenance: Armenian Restaurants Unite to Donate Meals to MGH on April 24th

Mass. General staff with Sam Pogosov (Phinix Mediterranean Kitchen), Weekly contributor and Miss Boston Kristina Ayanian, Kris Hagopian (Jana Grill & Bakery) and Weekly layout designer Masha Keryan

BOSTON, Mass.—In honor of the 105th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, five Armenian-owned restaurants collectively donated more than 150 meals to fuel the night shift crew tirelessly working the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) during the global pandemic.

Ani Catering & Cafe, Anoush’ella Kitchen, Jana Grill & Bakery, Noor Mediterranean Grill and Phinix Mediterranean Kitchen each added their own flare to individually packaged meals filled to the brim with flavorful kebabs and falafel, shawarma wraps and stuffed grape leaves complemented with hummus, warm rice and zesty salad.

The sound of sirens was buzzing in Boston on a blustery Friday night, as police were escorting cars to move out of traffic. Ambulances were rushing in as quickly as they were leaving the parking lot outside of the main entrance on Fruit Street. Three vehicles pulled up to find grateful emergency staff ready to help unload 20 large bags of food onto two overflowing carts. Moments later, restaurant owners waved goodbye, as MGH staff carefully wheeled the carts inside to hungry and fatigued frontline workers. The owners glanced at each other in silence with a shared sense of longing standing six feet apart before heading to their cars to go home. Given the circumstances, they miss out on the personal touch, that face-to-face delivery to their customers and comforting each other on the solemn occasion. 

“I believe that a home-cooked meal can heal the soul,” said Arsen Karageozian, owner of Noor Mediterranean Grill in Somerville, redefining the broader meaning of food in the Armenian cuisine. “I hope my food provided a bit of comfort that our heroes on the front lines deserve.”

Arsen Karageozian (Noor Mediterranean Grill) and Weekly contributor Kristina Ayanian

Each restaurant carefully timed their meal preparations in insulated bags and boxes to ensure the meals were hot and ready upon delivery. “Everyone followed us to the break room,” said the charge coordinator after delivery. You could see their smiles through their face masks in pictures sent to the Weekly.

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Food is an expression of love for Nina Festekjian and her family. As the owner of Anoush’ella in Boston, she strives to share that passion with the greater Boston community. “Armenian food is a way to feel continually connected to our heritage while connecting with our family and friends in the present,” she added.

“We love the community, and we cherish any opportunity we can get to show how much the community truly means to us,” said Hovannes Janessian, owner of Ani Catering & Cafe of Belmont, while emotionally reflecting upon the memories shared in the community through his family’s food throughout the years. “Our community was built on collective involvement” he added.

Kristina Ayanian with Hovannes and Ari Janessian (Ani Catering & Cafe)

While these successful Armenian-owned food joints regularly donate food individually, their unity on the 24th proves that Turkey failed to exterminate the Armenian population. They hustled overtime to collectively represent the entire Armenian community of Boston and brought smiles to those who needed it most on that Friday night, together.

“Most of these small-time food operators are usually busy competing against each other, but seeing them come together for a cause bigger than them individually is a powerful moment,” said Sam Pogosov of Phinix Mediterranean Grill in Waltham. He recalled a powerful Armenian message from his grandfather that guides his everyday life, “Do good and throw it in the water. It shall not sink.”

“Uniting together was a small gesture, but it had such a powerful symbolic meaning to me. Most of us (Armenians) are now alive because our great-grandfathers or great-grandmothers were able to escape the Genocide, go through incredible hardships and build a life for themselves and their children,” said Suren Keryan, owner of Jana Grill & Bakery of Watertown. “By uniting and helping others, we not only show unity in chaos, but we also celebrate all the survivors of the Armenian Genocide.”

Editor’s Note: In March, the author launched a food donation project for local hospitals, shelters and food pantries. This collaboration was inspired by her initiative. 

Kristina Ayanian

Kristina Ayanian

Kristina Ayanian is a senior listings analyst at Nasdaq. She holds dual degrees in finance and global studies with a minor in corporate communications from Bentley University. She was a reporter for ABC's Teen Kids News, whose episode interviewing Prince Edward of England was nominated for the 2014 Emmy's. She enjoys performing and has been invited to sing and play piano at Carnegie Hall. In February 2020, Kristina was crowned Miss Boston 2020.

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